Manhunter | Chicago Reader


Rated R 124 minutes

After creating Miami Vice, Michael Mann returned to the action-movie fray with this 1986 story of an FBI investigator (William L. Petersen) on the trail of psycho killer Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox). It doesn't qualify as a thriller since there aren't many thrills, and the narrative keeps receding into the enveloping layers of style. Still I'm intrigued by that stylistic envelope: simultaneously hypnotic and enervating, meditative and empty, like a white-noise background or a field of electronic snow on the tube. Petersen is the ultimate white-noise actor, languid, vacant, gray: his battles with the wallpaper and Mann's fluorescently underlit interiors generate a weird aesthetic tension that seems exactly right. There's a terminal entropy in all this that's desperately evocative (a single image encapsulates the feeling: a blind woman running her hands along the flanks of an anesthetized tiger); I'd call it interesting, but a lot of people won't agree. Just try not to nod off . . . With Kim Greist, Joan Allen, and Tom Noonan.

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