Michael Mann’s Manhunter was such a box office disappointment—just $8.6 million—when it was released in 1986 that when author Thomas Harris wrote a sequel two years later, producer Dino DeLaurentis agreed to loan Orion Pictures the rights to adapt it as a feature. 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs, went on to gross $130 million in U.S. alone, and garner five Academy Awards. Lambs success brought some much deserved, new interest to Manhunter.
For those not in the know, it’s this film that marks the true theatrical debut of Dr. Hannibal Lecter; point this out, though, and you may be faced with a disinterested response along the lines of “Yeah, but some other guy plays Lecter.” Yeah, but that “some other guy”—Brian Cox—actually does a fine job in the role; perhaps not up to the standards that made Anthony Hopkins portrayal legendary, but he acquits himself well.
Manhunter is a rather faithful adaption of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon. Will Graham (William Petersen), is a former FBI agent who retired after being near-fatally wounded by Dr. Lecter while capturing him. Graham’s special gift—what endears him most to his superior, Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina)—is his uncanny ability to get inside of a killer’s mind by looking at the evidence and patterns of behavior; essentially allowing his mind to become that of the killer.
Graham is coaxed out of retirement to help the Bureau solve the case of the “Tooth Fairy Killer.” Fearing that his own family will become a target, Graham agrees to help only if he can do his part in a strictly behind-the-scenes manner. In an effort to reestablish his edge, Graham visits Lecktor (and yes, “Lecktor” is thus spelt) in prison who reminds him that the two are “just alike” and thinking like the killer will lead to his capture. As Graham begins to put the clues together, his involvement in the case becomes public knowledge courtesy of tabloid photojournalist Freddy Lounds (Stephen Lang). With Will’s family now in the crossfire, time is of the essence.
Petersen crafts a character so wholly absorbing that you feel completely drawn into his word, and sympathize with his dilemma. Cox’s portrayal of Lecktor is an interesting mix of untamed evil and intellectual vigor. His portrayal adds to the chilling intensity of the film. Manhunter is a movie that digs deep into the human psyche, and engages the brain. Rather than being soaked in blood at every turn, bone chilling scares are delivered via the mere thought of what was. A complex and captivating motion picture, Manhunter is different, but nonetheless just as good as the subsequent Lecter films.
Manhunter comes to Blu-ray with a fairly strong 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer. While black crush pops up more often than one would like, grain is handled deftly here. Color accuracy is quite good—flesh tones occasionally waver, but deep tones remain consistent throughout. Detail quality is sharp and inviting.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound mix here serves the film well. Dialogue is always audible and well-represented, and even though they don’t kick in all that often, when they do, surrounds have a feverish, claustrophobic quality to them that serve the movie well.
Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mixes are included, as are English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
There are no special features.
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