January 26, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

Manhunter

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
119 minutes
Wide Release Date
08/22/86
performer
Brian Cox, William L. Petersen, Joan Allen, Dennis Farina, Tom Noonan
director
Michael Mann
distributor
Dino De Laurentiis Productions
author
Michael Mann
genre
Drama, Mystery and Thriller
We gave it an A-

The brilliance of Michael Mann’s Manhunter is that it appreciates that the true nexus of humanity is our shared closeness. FBI agent Will Graham (CSI‘s William Petersen) is a master at serial-killer profiling — getting so close to a maniac that he starts to think like a maniac — and so he’s called out of retirement to track a thin white duke of a demon whose thing is killing families. In order to get himself back into the mindset that once drove him mad, Graham visits his former prey, the notorious Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (misspelled for no good reason and played here by Brian Cox). And so, this film revolves around the pleasures and perils of proximity. To get close to one killer, Graham must get close to another and, in the process, is driven away from his wife and son. The DVD — available in one- and two-disc permutations — is also an exercise in closeness, but sometimes a frustrating one. We’re drawn into the film by the exhaustively precise transfer, which replicates Mann’s exacting compositions and Miami Vice color schemes to perfection (except for the unremarkable 124-minute director’s cut in the two-disc set; the picture there looks like bad VHS). We also get a pair of documentaries, the first from cinematographer Dante Spinotti; the second is composed of interviews from the cast — Petersen, Cox, Joan Allen, and Tom Noonan — who spill little secrets along the way (Petersen got the role because Mann had considered him for a role in Heat; the only thing Cox regrets about not playing Lecter in Silence of the Lambs is the money). But there’s no input whatsoever from Mann and the absence is felt. This is a director’s film in every sense, and for him to pass on the opportunity to help immortalize this ’80s time capsule of a thriller is a bit of a crime itself.

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