Like Miami Vice, only longer
A note before we begin: yeah, yeah, I know William Petersen was the guy in Manhunter before he was the guy in CSI, but this is the CSI portion of Mighty Big TV, so I really don't care that William Petersen's playing someone named Will Graham: Gil he is now, and so Gil he shall be throughout the recap. If you don't like it, mentally substitute "Will" for "Gil"; it's all homonymic anyway.
And now, on with the recap.
The movie opens with the insistent buzz of Jan Hammer's finest, i.e. the ability to hold two fingers on a synthesizer keyboard for five minutes straight. As the chord -- which would be ominous if it didn't sound so cheesy -- continues its pernicious thrum, a flashlight beams across the staircase of a family home. The light is cool and blue and oh-so-eighties. It focuses on a man and a woman asleep in bed -- dear God, but the synthesizer has robbed me of the ability to think straight -- and then the woman finally sits up.
Cue the glowing green title: Manhunter. At least we didn't open with a shot of Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Castillo and Crockett are perched on a piece of driftwood, talking about -- oh. My bad. That's Dennis Farina as Jack Crawford, and our boy Gil, sporting a savage tan, truly eye-popping purple short-shorts, and a cutoff sweatshirt. And -- because this is a Michael Mann production set in the 1980s, and as we all know, Michael Mann went on to make Miami Vice, like, immediately after wrapping this movie -- Gil is also wearing stubble. I'm guessing he was the trial run for the feasibility of that unshaven look. Anyway, the two are having a conversation where Crawford is obviously trying to persuade Gil to do something, and Gil's all moodily saying, "I'm not falling all over myself to talk about it much anywhere, Jack." Suffice it to say that no, I do not know what "it" is yet. Oh, wait -- Crawford's filling in the Brass role. There must be something in the job description for middle-management types in law enforcement: "Will provide expository dialogue." Anyway, Crawford says, "The first one in Birmingham was in the newspapers a month ago. The second one in Atlanta was all over TV." Gil has no response for that. Crawford says angrily, "You ever think about giving me a call?" "No," Gil sulks. "Why not?" Crawford continues, with no small hint of asperity in his voice. "I quit, remember?" Gil snits.
We then go to a truly bizarre camera shot -- Jack Crawford, as framed by Gil's bicep. Then we draw back; Gil lights a cigarette as Jack puts two photos, face down, on the driftwood, daring Gil, "If you can't look anymore, I understand." Well, I understand that he's baiting Gil to come back; judging by the look on Gil's face -- persecuted -- he understands too. "Don't try to run a game down on me, Jack," he says. Jack has the good grace to look ashamed, then says, "If I really didn't need you to come back, I wouldn't ask. This guy's on a lunar cycle. I have three weeks and a few days until the next full moon." And now we have the built-in dramatic tension for the rest of the movie. Will Gil catch this guy in time? Like I have to ask. "We have a better chance to get him fast if you help," Jack continues, and because we're all of three minutes into the movie and we still have many more to go, it's a safe bet that Gil's going to turn over those photos, then decide to help. The synthesizer kicks in again -- I suspect it's part of an experiment to condition us to react with dread every time we hear a Moog -- and Gil's all, "I'll think about it." Just then, a tall blonde and a blond kid come walking by the log; the woman's sporting a pair of big plastic earrings and an all-white outfit. Ah, eighties fashion! Between this and the occasional thirtysomething rerun, I'm almost nostalgic for power-perms and the puffy belted-shirt thing. Almost. Anyway, the blonde -- who's also wearing Ray-Bans, as was apparently legally mandated for all occupants of Earth in the 1980s -- gives Jack a tight grin. Ah, so she's Mrs. Gil, and none too eager to see Gil returning to work.