“You think you’re smarter than me since you caught me.
The only one who’s better than me is Anthony Hopkins
and you’re no Jodie Foster.”

Whoooo Are You?

The film is “Manhunter,” written and directed by Michael Mann (“Collateral”). It stars William Petersen (Grissom from “CSI”) as the reluctant but gifted FBI agent Will Graham. He just caught the serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox), but the act left him physically and emotionally scarred. He wants to leave his profession for good, but his boss needs his help to catch another serial killer dubbed “Tooth Fairy” (Tom Noonan).

If the story sounds familiar, you might have seen the Brett Ratner film “Red Dragon,” with Anthony Hopkins playing his iconic role for the third time. Both movies are based on the “before ‘Silence of the Lambs’” novel “Red Dragon” by Thomas Harris (a tasty read for the voracious reader). Both benefit from a first rate plotting and acutely depicted characters. This is my third time experiencing the story and I’m still amazed how everything twists and turns. These days, cat and mouse thrillers are presented more as entertainment. This one is foreboding and dark.

So how does the two movies with the same story compare? “Manhunter” succeeds better in cinematography and art direction. Not too shabby for a 20 year old film. Michael Mann has always been a stylish director. He has a knack for setting the right mood and tone visually. The acting front is decent too. Brian Cox is actually great as Lecter, but you can’t look at him without thinking about Anthony Hopkins’ suave and cold portrayal. For CSI fans like me, it was a hoot to see William Petersen looking younger. He’s already in Grissom mode here, but yet to mature a nerdy quirk. But I think the actor who fits his role the most is Tom Noonan. As the main villain, he is a towering man of menace. Yikes.

If I had to take off points from “Manhunter,” it’s mostly based on judging it against “Red Dragon.” Besides lacking Hopkins, “Manhunter” left out some vital scenes. It neither shows you how Lecter got caught nor the wicked final twist in the end of the novel. And “Red Dragon” had a freaking A-list cast: Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson, and Ralph Fiennes. But the worst thing about “Manhunter” is its 1980s macho music. I was cringing. I didn’t even bother to let the end credits roll. I ejected the DVD and was thankful that certain songs are imprisoned in decades where they belong.

Grade: A-

William L. Petersen, Kim Greist, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Dennis Farina, Stephen Lang, and Tom Noonan
Screenplay by
Michael Mann
Based on the novel Red Dragon by
Thomas Harris
Directed by
Michael Mann
Rated R