Year: 1986

Director: Michael Mann

Written by: Michael Mann

Threat: Psychopath

Weapon of Choice: Mirror

Based upon: novel - Red Dragon - Thomas Harris

IMDb page: IMDb link

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Other movies in this series:
Silence of the Lambs

Rish Outfield's reviews
This is the little-seen predecessor to Silence of the Lambs, directed by now-big-shot Michael Mann. In a couple of ways, it is the same story: an FBI agent enlists the help of an institutionalized cannibal-murderer to catch another serial killer. I mistakenly thought this was the story of how Dr. Lecter was caught (wasn't it called "The Pursuit of Hannibal Lecter" in some venues?), so that was disappointing. And it only dealt with Lecter (spelled Lektor here) as a subplot, unlike the ‘91 film that really focused on him, rather, it deals with FBI agent Will Graham, who is the only one who can stop the new, brilliant killer.
William L. Peterson plays Graham, a haunted family man who is (almost mystically) able to see inside the minds of serial killers. Brian Cox as Lektor wasn't too bad, really. He wasn't Hopkins, but who is? Still, I found Cox's performance both disturbing and charismatic, evil and fascinating--and that's exactly how he should have been played. Joan Allen (is she a celebrity?) plays a blind woman who attracts the sensitive side of the serial killer. And she does a good job. On the opposite end of the spectrum was a terrible little kid actor who played Peterson‘s son (you could see him trying to remember his lines and waiting for his cues and looking offscreen) . . . shudder.
Since this was inspired by Mann's "Miami Vice," it did feature embarrassingly trite Eighties glam-electronic music at inopportune times. The only time music was really well-used was when they played "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" with the super-long instrumental toward the end. Still, this film's biggest mistake is that it tries to humanize the killer, and show us his everyday life. We focused for a more than a few minutes on the villain, seeing a tender side to him, getting in his head, understanding him. Naturally, we are wont to sympathize with him. It really didn't work, because the rest of the film was about the Good Guys trying to bring the Bad Guy down.
This was a cerebral film, with nice parallels and good acting. Unfortunately, the film falls apart at the end. Peterson‘s confrontation with the killer was shockingly anti-climactic. It was too easy to stop him, too abrupt, too uncomplicated . . . and it thusly felt cheap. Then, it was over. They built the villain up as a character who might do anything, who might not even be truly evil (just crazy), and in the end, he dies like a common hood.
It did make me want to read the book, though. And that's always good.
I'd Recommend It To: Big fans of Silence of the Lambs with low expectations.
Note 1: Since this review was written, I read the book, and found the film was surprisingly faithful to it in many areas. Also, a longer cut of the film has become available, which is reputedly superior.
Note 2: In 2002, due to the success of Hannibal, Harris's book was remade as Red Dragon.

The tyranist's thoughts
I finally got around to seeing this one in the days running up to the release of Red Dragon, which, as most of our readers should know, is a remake of this one. In some ways I'm glad I put it off so that it will be fresher in my mind for comparison in others, I regret leaving it so long as I found this to actually be a better movie than the third entry in the series Hannibal.
It is difficult to go into a movie like this without certain expectations. Anthony Hopkins has always been Hannibal Lecter to me and always will be so when Lecter doesn't look or talk like him, it is something of a shock, even though I was perfectly aware of the fact that this predates Hopkins' Lecter by several years. Fortunately, that is easily overlooked since the movie spends much less time with Lecter than its sequels.
I found the acting and the script to be nice. They spend a lot of time familiarizing us with both the primary investigator and his prey which has the neat effect of putting us more in the mind of the investigator. That's intentional, folks. Part of the drama of the story lies in the fact that when the investigator hunted Lecter down, he took on too much of that psychopath's persona and spent a little time in a little white room recovering. The more we know of the killer, the more we sympathize with him, the deeper it actually puts us in the investigator's head since that is what is happening to him. He is slowly developing and understanding that persona. Very nice.
I did find the music distracting as well, although I kept thinking that they must have lifted pieces of the Bladerunner soundtrack whole rather than Miami Vice's. The setting is nice though and the movie is easy to watch. It did start out a little slow, but I felt that the pace was deliberate rather than boring.
I really enjoyed this one, more than I expected to in fact. I'd definitely recommend it to fans of the series and perhaps to everyone else as well. I honestly don't see why they thought they needed to remake this one. Well, except for the greed and corruption thing.

Total Skulls: 12

Sequel setup
Rips off earlier film
Horror film showing on TV/in theater in movie
Future celebrity appears skull Joan Allen
Former celebrity appears
Bad title
Bad premise
Bad acting
Bad dialogue
Bad execution skull
MTV Editing
Girl unnecessarily gets naked
Wanton sex skull
Death associated with sex skull
Unfulfilled promise of nudity
Characters forget about threat
Secluded location skull
Power is cut skull
Phone lines are cut
Someone investigates a strange noise
Someone runs up stairs instead of going out front door
Camera is the killer
Victims cower in front of a window/door
Victim locks self in with killer
Victim running from killer inexplicably falls
Toilet stall scene
Shower/bath scene
Car stalls or won't start
Cat jumps out
Fake scare
Laughable scare
Stupid discovery of corpse
Dream sequence
No one believes only witness
Crazy, drunk, old man knows the truth skull
Music detracts from scene skull
Death in first five minutes
x years before/later
Dark and stormy night
Killer doesn't stay dead
Killer wears a mask skull
Killer is in closet
Killer is in car with victim
Villain is more sympathetic than heroes
Unscary villain/monster
Blood fountain
Blood hits camera
Poor death effect
Excessive gore
No one dies at all
Virgin survives
Geek/Nerd survives
Little kid lamely survives
Dog/Pet miraculously survives
Unresolved subplots skull
"It was all a dream" ending
Unbelievably happy ending
Unbelievably crappy ending skull
What the hell? skull