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Manhunter - Review (Blu-ray)

Manhunter

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

WHEN Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar for his portrayal of serial killer Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs it became almost easy to forget that his portrayal was NOT the first on-screen outing for the character.

Rather, that honour belonged to Brian Cox, whose portrayal of the psychopath was equally as chilling and just as acclaimed.

Cox played Lecktor [sic] in Michael Mann’s 1986 thriller Manhunter, an adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, which is now available for the first time on Blu-ray.

Later re-made as Red Dragon by Brett Ratner to feature Lecter in the role, Manhunter – for many – remains the definitive film version of the book. It’s certainly one of the best American thrillers of the ’80s and a film that plays to the strengths of its stylish director, Mann.

The plot focuses on FBI forensics expert Will Graham (CSI‘s William Peterson), a man who is blessed (and cursed) by his ability to fathom the workings of the criminal mind through psychic empathy.

Lured out of voluntary retirement to track down a serial killer known as ‘The Tooth Fairy’, Graham is forced to call on the assistance of former nemesis Lecktor (Cox), who uses the opportunity to play some mind games and to take a shot at revenge.

Caught in between is a media intent on sensationalising the Tooth Fairy case, as well as a blind woman who unwittingly falls for the Tooth Fairy’s charms.

Mann’s film, while rooted in the visual style of the ’80s and therefore a little dated, appears cleaner and fresher than you’ve ever previously witnessed it in Blu-ray format, and remains an intelligent and often unbearably tense psychological thriller.

Quite often, the mind is used as the playground for what takes place: whether in Lecktor’s torment of Graham, or Graham’s own personal demons that are re-awakened by the grisly crime scenes left by the Tooth Fairy.

There’s a voyeuristic element, too… not so much in the viewer, but in the nature of the crimes, which are brought about through meticulous research. It creates a feeling of unease throughout the film that’s hard to shake off… much like its successor, Silence of the Lambs.

The performances, too, match the mood and the general excellence of the narrative. Peterson is a highly sympathetic hero, Lecter a suitably sinister manipulator and Tom Noonan an ultra-creepy Tooth Fairy.

The innocent among all these, meanwhile, is Joan Allen, heartbreakingly sweet as the blind woman caught in a world she is totally unprepared for, et who comes very close to enabling Noonan’s monster to rediscover his humanity.

The overall result is a film that lives long in the memory for a number of reasons and which continues to stand the test of time as a really classic thriller.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 10mins
UK Blu-ray Release: September 26, 2011