Michael Mann introduces movie audiences to the notorious Dr Hannibal Lecter for the first time in this icy adaptation of Thomas Harris' Red Dragon. Brian Cox out-chills Anthony Hopkins as the incarcerated shrink while CSI star William Petersen plays Will Graham, the FBI profiler who caught Lecter in the first place... but now needs his help to catch a seriously disturbed serial killer (the terrifying Tom Noonan).
William L Petersen
Long before a Welsh character actor developed a temporary lisp in The Silence of the Lambs, There was another movie adaptation of a Thomas Harris novel - the book was Red Dragon - the movie...Manhunter.
Directed by Michael Mann, the original story in the Hannibal Lecter collection was an 80s horror classic. Will Graham (Petersen) is an FBI agent forced into retirement after an altercation with Lecter (Cox) during the cannibal's capture.
When a new psychopath starts murdering whole families every full moon, Graham is wheeled out of retirement to help catch the predator, because Graham can think like a psycho. He uses his own psychotic tendencies and Lecter's cryptic clues as he races to save the next family from a grisly demise.
For many people Manhunter remains the strongest effort after Silence of the Lambs. The tension far outweighs anything that Hannibal had to offer. And since the film doesn't hinge on the popularity of Hopkins' Lecter, it is not a Silence of the Lambs rehash, unlike the 2002 re-make, Red Dragon.
As for scares, there are plenty. Tom Noonan's performance as the psychopathic Dollarhyde must be one of the most underrated of all time. It's one of the few performances you'll see where the actor is so well cast you will always see him as the killer, and not the man playing him.
Petersen's Graham is much darker here than in the remake. Mann focuses on Graham's own psychotic problems at much greater depth, showing the effect it has on his family and his own sanity as well as the brilliance of using Graham's mind to track the killer.
Although it still remains a classic, the film has dated slightly. Most obviously with the music, though the synthesiser effect seems to help crank up the freakiness of it all.
Ultimately the film comes highly recommended. For horror fans, it's sufficiently creepy. As a detective thriller story, it's suspenseful and intelligent, as well as highly engaging.