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  • Nate Lemann


Updated: Jul 16

A stylized serial killer thriller, the first of the many Hannibal Lector adaptations, Michale Mann shows more interest in the law enforcement side than his successors but still feels like it has more to say than the later sequels/remakes.

By Nate Lemann

Tom Noonan as Francis Dollarhyde in "Manhunter"
Tom Noonan as Francis Dollarhyde in "Manhunter"

Michal Mann’s “Manhunter” is such an interesting film to consider; one first has the comparison to Jonathan Demme’s “Silence of the Lambs”, which I believe is superior in it’s psychological dance with both Lector and Buffalo Bill (the Demme close-up really plays on a whole other level). The film was also remade in the early 2000s with Brett Ratner’s “Red Dragon” (a title I think Mann should’ve stuck with as it feels far less generic than “Manhunter”). What I found most odd in comparing the two versions of this story is that while I don’t think there is a performance in Manhunter that is either better or even at the same level as those in Red Dragon (that movie has, to name just a few, Ed Norton, Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes, Philip Seymour Hoffman, etc.) I still feel Mann’s film is far superior. 

That all comes down to Mann’s and cinematographer Dante Spinotti’s aesthetic choices in this film. The film can at times feel pristine with some of the most gorgeous and visually arresting shots of the 1980s. The film has a dynamism to it that feels tactile and grounded but also elevated into higher art. Ratner just simply can’t match that even though he has a more prestigious cast (and possibly a better plotted script). If there is ever a question as to what does Michael Mann bring to a film that other directors can’t, the clear comparison to point to is this one. It takes a truly transcendent director to elevate work like this.


FINAL RATING: 4/5 Stars (Taut & Stylized Thriller)

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Hi! I'm Nate and I love to talk all things movies. I'll be posting new reviews, recent rewatches, and much more on this site. So come on and let's talk movies! 

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