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Manhunters (Blu-ray)

Studio: Wicked Pictures » Review by Don Houston » Review Date: 1/26/09

XCritic's Advice: Watch On Demand

Note: the following title is the Blu-ray version of the original release.  The quick version of the review is that fans of the ladies such as myself will still find it appealing but virtually all of the extras included on the first version were removed and the huge amount of grain was still present.  I am very much opposed to high definition re-releases that do not include AT LEAST the same extras or look markedly better, hence the rating reflecting my personal opinion (and I like the movie itself, I'm just not keen on paying twice as much for half as much material, or less).  It did look slightly better in some aspects but hardly the kind of upgrade one would expect from what has been called by Xcritic as the "best, brightest feature company on the market".

Manhunters Blu-ray

Wicked Pictures

Genre: Feature

Director: Brad Armstrong

Cast: Luscious Lopez, Marcos Leon, Dragon Lily, Devon Lee, Nyomi Banxxx, Tyler Knight, Julian St. Jox, Devon Michaels, Lee Stone, Kirsten Price, Chris Cannon, Jessica Drake, Brad Armstrong, Sandra Romain, Jada Fire, Brian Surewood, Carmen Hart, Myles Camack, Exotica, Tommy Gunn
Non-sex roles: Mia Smiles, Charlie Check'M, Ric Hard, Tuco Ramirez, Indio, Herschel Savage, Ron Brown, Dimonico, Black Tiger, others uncredited

Length: 158:21 minutes

Date of Production: 6/18/2006

Extra's:  The sole disc had a director's audio commentary starring Brad Armstrong, the lovely Jessica Drake, and Carmen Hart. Much of the track detailed Brad discussing some of the finer points of the shoot with Jessica beaming with pride about various points (both of her boyfriend Brad and her fellow performers) and Carmen seeming to absorb much of what was taking place. It was well handled and the decision to include the performers is always a nice balance with the director since they see different things.Unlike the 3-disc SD version of the movie, there were no other extras so check out my review of Manhunters SD to see what you'd be missing by picking this one up instead of it.

Condoms: Yes

Audio/Video Quality: Manhunters was presented in the same 1.85:1 widescreen color it was shot in by director Brad Armstrong for Wicked Pictures, now upgraded with 1080p resolution and using the AVC codec to marginally upgrade the visuals (the grain was so high that it could not be effectively removed from the picture). Shot on 16mm film, the usual problems with grain appeared in most of the scenes. This is exaggerated by the transfer to DVD yet the overall look of the movie was pretty good (though not great as I'd heard through the grapevine). There were some moments with heavy grain but the composition of the scenes showed Brad's skill with directing nearly as much as his director of photography's (Francois Clousot) inherent talent. There were some compression artifacts but they really weren't a big issue for me as infrequent as they were here. The high definition Blu-ray version of the fuck flick really needed an upgrade but it fell far short of expectations in this department too, never mind the relative lack of extras.  Granted, the video bitrate hovered around the 18.8 Mbps area or higher when I spot checked it but the numbers do not translate into a better picture no matter what you've been told. The audio was presented with no choices outside of the audio commentary; the standard 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround English track (using 384 Kbps audio bitrate and a 48 kHz sampling rate) here instead of the trio of choices from the original release. There was some separation between the channels but most of the time, it wasn't like a true 5.1 track so much as some 2.0 vocals and music. Still, an improvement is an improvement and all the vocals could be heard on the appropriate tracks with some well made music too.

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Body of Review: Brad Armstrong has been one of my favorite feature directors in porn in recent years, plying his trade at Wicked Pictures in such a way that when given the budget, he can go toe to toe with anyone in the industry; usually coming out on top. His former yearly blockbuster Manhunters, a tale of female bounty hunters that take on any challenge to get the job done, was all the rage when it came out but the more recent (released last summer) high definition version lacked on many levels for me. It looks like Brad went for a drama with some nice comedic touches to lighten the mood; a delicate balance that few of his peers could handle without either slipping into self parody or coming off as too serious, a tribute to his skill. I admit that I like his bigger features better than his modest efforts and this was my favorite of the year (though both Eternity and Curse Eternal were really fun too). The cover said it like this: "They're Coming For You! Bail jumpers beware, there's a whole new breed of bounty hunters in town. And hell hath no fury like a woman with a badge. But don't be fooled by their soft curves, these bounty-hunting bitches are as tough as nails, and ready for anything. Follow Rachel (Jessica Drake) and her crew, Kris (Carmen Hart), Bobbi (Kristen Price), and Maria (Exotica) as they scour the city in search of fugitives. From gang-bangers, to bank robbers, to thug rappers, they're hot on the trail. And be assured, these ladies always get their man. This shot on film blockbuster is a true piece of action-erotica. With nine intense sex scenes and edge of your seat action sequences, Manhunters is sure to entertain and arouse. Award winning director Brad Armstrong blurs the line between adult movies and mainstream cinema once again. This time, with a little help from these bad-ass bounty hunters." If you're still interested, here's a brief look at the scenes by cast and action, noting that condoms were used in all the scenes with men:

Scene One: Luscious Lopez, a gal with a big sweet ass and long black hair, was up first in bed with Marcos Leon. For those who don't know her, you're really missing out since she gives some of the best performances in porn and has remained somewhat of an unsung heroine in terms of adding heat to a movie. She sucked him off with the polished skill of a champion and he went straight to the anal as he pumped away like crazy to get as deep as possible inside her fleshy cheeks. It was an active ride (as expected) and the scene seemed to fit naturally with the story portions of the movie, ending with a facial.

Scene Two: Dragon Lily, Devon Lee, Nyomi Banxxx, Tyler Knight, and Julian St. Jox were up next in the recording studio with the two men getting blowjobs from the ladies. Devon bounced around a bit to assist, showing yet again that sharing is caring, but it seemed that all of the ladies were under utilized since it was strictly a hummer scene. In terms of the movie it worked better than the sex but it was nicely placed as this type of scene tends to be shied away from too often (a balance between the sex and story elements is one of the most difficult to achieve).

Scene Three: Devon Michaels, a gal with major curves that shows sex doesn't end when you turn 25 (or so), was up next with the massive Lee Stone in the home gym. She was looking very tight and lean, enhancing the effect as she slobbed his knob with the kind of skill few in the cast could have done (he's so well endowed that most of them wouldn't be able to handle him). Once completely hard, he bent her over and let his rod take over to give her a bone of his own (complete with some PTM). She was athletic and active in riding him, providing a solid ride on his cock as the two got very hot and very sweaty. It ended when she jerked him off to her mouth, making it another very good scene (the two seem to have a sense of chemistry together whenever they work in a scene with each other).

Scene Four: Kirsten Price, the attractive contract star was up next in the dojo as she turned the tables on instructor Chris Cannon on the mat. The oral and straight sex seemed kind of limited and I sort of wished they had been able to get Barrett Blade for the scene since she really didn't seem to have any chemistry with the award winning Chris at all. The positions were short and while it was technically decent work, their lack of spark weakened the scene to make it one of the low points in the movie for me.

Scene Five: Jessica Drake, the very hot lead contract star of the movie was up next in a red dress after she picked up studly Brad Armstrong and ended up in bed with him. They are currently together as a couple and the chemistry was the best of the movie as the two shared more than a moment together. They gave each other the kind of oral that said they wanted to get one another off repeatedly, taking their time to savor the moment rather then quickly collect a paycheck as so many feature scenes these days appear to offer. Jessica has long been a skilled lady and her looks only made the scene better with her moaning elevating the heat more than a little bit too. The penetrative sex included both vaginal and anal, with the couple showing that they cared for one another more than just bumping uglies. It ended with a facial though I would have preferred they take the couples angle one step further and provide something more natural, but I have long appreciated real life couples flaring up on the small screen more than some of the critics that prefer mechanical acts of depravity more.

Scene Six: Sandra Romain, Jada Fire, and Brian Surewood, were the twisted trio of the movie; having their scene in a small bed. The scene was notable for how wild they all were and how much pure enthusiasm they seemed to have, Sandra long having been established as a top anal queen and Jada proving her skills repeatedly of late. For his part, Brian is almost always over the top but it worked well here and I almost forgot his pirate role from last year as he fit the role here so very well (and I want to thank him for the Canadian headache medicine he provided a few of us at the show this year). The gals almost appeared as if they were in a contest to see who could be the most extreme or show the most energy with the viewer being the winner no matter how many points you'd give them. This was the polar opposite of the last scene but each worked on their own merits (unlike gonzo, a feature can mix and match all sorts of sexual dynamics and the better such movies do this more often than not with the lamer companies using cookie cutter formulas as taking the easy route out). The large toys, Sandra's anal and the messy oral they all seemed to engage in made this one of the movie's highlights for me even if I like a couple of the contract gals more. It ended when he unleashed his seed all over Sandra and Jada cleaned it off. Whew!

Scene Seven: Carmen Hart, one of the hottest contract hotties Wicked Pictures (or any other company) has ever employed, was up next in the shower with a newcomer named Myles Camack. They were in the shower and the non structured manner of the scene made her seem even more "cute and adorable" than her accent usually makes her. The blowjob was very well done with tremendous replay value for me and she actively rode his rod as they screwed heatedly in the room. It ended with the pop shot to her face as expected and I could've watched her going at it forever (in a sense, the sexual portion of the movie was led for me by her and Jessica as far as the contract gals go).

Scene Eight: Jessica Drake, Exotica, Carmen Hart, and Kirsten Price, were up next in the movie's big lesbian contract gal orgy. Such scenes are incredibly tough to get right since balancing the types of sex with the performers; something I have long thought only directors Jim Holliday and Joone could handle consistently well. Thankfully, Brad did a fine job here as well and given the level of quality of the quartet, it worked better than I thought possible. The ladies liked one another without the cattiness some companies have fostered in the past, elevating the strokability and replay value as a result. There were 8 fingers in Kirsten (her first on camera anal, even if with a woman, too). The use of toys and a rapid tempo added to the fun here with the scene worthy of award consideration even if they didn't try to jump the shark as most gonzo scenes would have done (some confuse doing more tricks with doing better scenes, something I've discussed with numerous directors in the past at conventions). I agreed with the commentary comments about how wet the ladies looked too. Yum! (I only wish the picture had been shot on video since it took on a dull, grainy, look with muted colors.)

Scene Nine: Exotica, the curvy brunette with the powerful legs and fine ass, was up last in bed with studly Tommy Gunn; both looking like the perfect porn couple. I haven't seen enough of her in the past to really comment on her in great depth but she seems to offer a lot of potential (and the tight shorts she wore in the previous basketball scene gave her ass the perfect look). This was another scene that went for the erotic display of heat over the circus act style of gonzo, largely working as a result of their apparent chemistry together. It was slow and sultry like Jessica and Brad's scene previously in the movie, though admittedly not quite as full of chemistry as that one was, but she was an active lay and that made it a fine scene to enjoy too. The slow hummer and paced vaginal work led to the largest pop shot of the movie and if this is indicative of her work with him, I hope she gets a showcase movie that uses him a few times.

Summary: Manhunters Blu-ray was a classic feature by director Brad Armstrong for Wicked Pictures that used almost all of their contract gals to best advantage when it came out; the use of film instead of video weakening efforts to enhance it in this Blu-ray version. It truly managed to combine the better elements of a mainstream movie and a high end feature porno with plenty of fuck for the buck, an incredible package of extras, and a diverse selection of scenes that refused to follow the usual cookie cutter approach most feature producers seem to rely on these days. Jessica and Carmen were incredible and the other ladies all added something special to the movie so you can see why Manhunters was one of my top features of the year when it came out, in large part due to the impressive box of extras that had been included with it. The acting was above average, the script well written with the audience in mind, and this became a clear contender for a number of awards for more reasons than I care to go into. There were some rough edges with the picture and the decision to use film instead of video or digital caused problems for me (ultimately lowering the rating a notch), the loss of the original extras a major point of contention, and the lack of a major visual upgrade making me stick to my guns that the SD version is superior for 99.9% of all fans so consider this a Rent It.

You can email me with questions at Houstondon @ hotmail.com if you have any constructive criticism of the review too. :) Also you can follow me on twitter @HoustonDon

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