Jim Dooley’s review published on Letterboxd:
MIAMI VICE meets Thomas Harris.
With the indelible portrayals by Anthony Hopkins, this initial version of the Harris book, RED DRAGON, is often overlooked. That’s both understandable and unfortunate.
Michael Mann who brought us the iconic television series, MIAMI VICE, brings his treatment (as writer and director) to this version that introduced characters that would become part of the cinema lexicon.
First, the negatives. The stylistic visuals that worked so well in MIAMI VICE caused me to be emotionally distanced from the characters for the first 15-minutes. I was presented with beautifully composed frames filled with dark and moody people. Now, to his credit, Mann’s stylistic approach works completely from the murder in the parking garage through the remainder of the film.
The second problem ... and the much bigger problem ... was William Peterson’s portrayal of Will Graham. I won’t say that it is not accurate. Graham is a physically and emotionally scarred man. However, his portrayal barely changes throughout the course of the movie. It might have worked if Graham wasn’t the protagonist. But, it’s difficult to identify with a character who dwells (for the most part) in isolation.
Now, the good news.
The screenplay is gripping. The hunt for the killer is fraught not only with mystery, but considerable personal danger. The twists and turns are involving and unnerving.
All of the other performers are terrific. Kim Greist is our anchor for understanding Will Graham. Tom Noonan is believable and scary as Hell as the killer. Joan Allen not only provides the “victim” fear as the killer’s unknowing girlfriend, but the empathy we need to understand her situation and the emotionally disturbed killer. Kudos to Stephen Lang as the reprehensible reporter ... literally the man I loved to hate.
Ah, yes, but what about Hannibal Lecktor? Besides the difference in spelling of the name, Brian Cox does quite a bit with his limited screen time to give us a very different portrayal from the one provided by Anthony Hopkins. Cox makes Hannibal less overtly frightening. The way he delivers his lines makes Hannibal seem normal ... except for a certain “something” in his physicality. Although he may seem fine outwardly, there was something about him that made me uncomfortable. Naturally, as we learn more of his story, it becomes obvious that there is a lot here to fear.
MANHUNTER is a powerful thriller once it finds its footing. Despite some obvious continuity errors ... and they need to really stand out for me to be aware of them ... this is a film with a stylistic vision that gets under the skin.