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September 5, 2010

Manhunter (1987)
Director: Michael Mann
Actors: William Petersen, Tom Noonan, Brian Cox

Synopsis: Cop Will Graham (William Pietersen) is dragged away from self-imposed exile to crack a case involving a serial killer….

Review: Despite moments of brilliance, Manhunter is ultimately an infuriating and patchy piece of work, although one that alludes to the talent Michael Mann was to exhibit over a host of later films in the Nineties and early Noughties. The film is at its strongest in its most sinister mode, notably in the super opening sequence where the camera adopts the perspective of the killer just prior to one of his murderous sprees, all this to a simple but haunting synthesiser key. As well as being a chilling coda in its own right, this sequence also establishes the central thematic core of the film – the idea and psychology of ‘looking’. When the film adheres to this minimal but crucial theme, as in the brief but symbolically vital scenes with Brian Cox’s malevolent Hannibal Lecktor, it creates an unsettling ambience. Unfortunately, Mann too often unbalances his film with overkill of its pop soundtrack, thereby dissipating a lot of the simmering tension, and equally the film doesn’t always convincingly portray either the mindset of the killer (his ‘romantic’ subplot with a blind co-worker is unconvincing) and the detective (his final rush through the glass door to apprehend the killer is a slightly clumsy metaphor to end the film on). (April 2006)

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