August 25, 1986 12:00 PM

Based on Thomas Harris’ novel Red Dragon, this film is about an FBI investigator who specializes in tracking down psychopathic serial killers. Its theme seems to be that we’re all on the verge of being psychopaths, and director Michael (Thief) Mann, an executive producer of Miami Vice, blasts out a rock sound track loud enough to turn just about anyone into a mass murderer. The laconic William (To Live and Die in L.A.) Petersen plays the FBI expert in downscale Mickey Rourke fashion, having surly conversations with himself in an effort to figure out how the killer thinks. Kim (Brazil) Greist dutifully portrays the worried wife and Tom (F/X) Noonan is the killer, whose motives seem to be religious in nature. Plausibility is at a premium. It’s never clear why the FBI is even involved in a local crime in the first place. There’s a strange scene in which Noonan takes a new girlfriend to visit a tiger under sedation in a vet’s operating room. And Petersen’s behavior often seems as menacing as the criminal’s. Reminiscent of the pilot for the TV series The Streets of San Francisco, as well as Clint Eastwood’s Tightrope, this film is not nearly as involving or convincing as either of them. If we are all this crazy, better we should find out about it through a direct mail campaign. (R)

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