Manhunter ★★★★½


Manhunter is a progression of a certain kind of movie making. After The Keep - an ethereal, vivid dreamworld horror - was torn to shreds by Paramount, it only seems fair that Mann received another shot at the same textures that The Keep exudes, even in its compromised form. Like Mann's previous effort, this adaptation of Thomas Harris' Red Dragon is the cinematic equivalent of a waking nightmare; clinical and horrifying even when the monsters are nowhere in sight. It's a film that plays with editing trickery and heightened illusions, contrasting a procedural aesthetic with eerie flashes of surreal imagery and laying a blood-pumping score over each deliberate footstep, but it remains tender; focusing on the central, protective dynamic between Will Graham and his family more than Hannibal Lecktor himself.

Like all the best Lecter stories, it's about influence and how a psychopath continues to control individuals even after they've been imprisoned. Observing Lecktor (expertly played by Brian Cox) slyly twist minuscule details like a mischievous child behind a curtain builds unknowable tension, and Michael Mann knows when to let it loose. However, it isn't solely told by plot revelations, but through visuals and music; a cinematic master unleashing terror and fury via garish colors and immense backdrops of lurid synths. Mann loves to fill an entire room with a single operatic hue, but here it's all about the dichotomy between various light sources and darkness always lurking in physical/emotional corners.

Tom Noonan's Dollarhyde, in the inevitable shootout climax, grabs a shotgun and shoots out lamps and fixtures before the encounter, setting the stage for Michael Mann's rampant neon sensibilities while continuing to showcase undeniable control. Mann's screenplay sells all of the allure of the fantastical as well as the pervasive uncertainty, but he transforms ideas into ravishing, otherworldly images; the high point being a Dollarhyde vision of jealousy evoking a decadent portrait of seduction. Never has a serial killer drama been so stirring and reverberating in its haunting passages. Mann for life.

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