Manhunter

Manhunter

Manhunter is the much less well-known film of which The Silence of the Lambs was loosely a remake. FBI agents led by the protagonist (a serial killer specialist) hunt a serial killer who mutilates his victims. The protagonist meets in prison with Hannibal Lecktor (different spelling in this movie), whom he had previously captured, to seek assistance in understanding the mind of the killer.

The hook is that the protagonist has enough tendencies toward being a serial killer himself that he is able—like Lecktor—to put himself in the frame of mind of someone who would commit such crimes. But it’s traumatic for him to do so. Following the Lecktor case he had ended up in a mental hospital briefly, and then retired, until being coaxed out of retirement for this case.

The set-up is as good or better than The Silence of the Lambs, and early on I felt like this was a well above average crime thriller, but it gradually lost me.

The whole thing becomes predictable and formulaic. The dialogue is what you’ve heard in a million movies and TV shows. The investigation progresses from one brilliant deduction based on miniscule evidence to another. Despite having a SWAT team at the ready, somehow things play out to where the bad guy and the hero fight it out one to one. In the end, only extras get killed instead of the people we’ve gotten to know as individuals, so it’s celebrated as a success.

Of course it would be difficult for any portrayal of Lecktor (Lecter) to come close to the iconic performance of Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs, and this one by Brian Cox doesn’t, though that being said, Lecktor is still probably the most compelling character in the movie.

Lecktor is also underused. He’s on screen perhaps 20% as much as Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs. Or then again, it’s possible that Hopkins’s Lecter is so powerful and attention-grabbing a character that it creates the impression that he’s an even bigger part of that movie than he is. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Lecktor in this movie is on screen more like 50%-60% as much as the Lecter of The Silence of the Lambs and it just feels like 20%.

Manhunter looks promising for a while, and I suppose it’s never any worse than ordinary for this genre, but instead of being as good or better than The Silence of the Lambs, it ends up about at the level of Criminal Law.

Oh yeah, and it closes with quite possible the lyrically dumbest song of all time playing over the closing credits:

Heart beat.
Heart beat.
Listen to my heaaaaaart beat.
Heart beat.
Heart beat.
Listen to my heaaaaaart beat.
[Repeat sixty or seventy times.]

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