The latest project from Brad Armstrong had a lot to live up to. Consistently pressing against the limits of adult entertainment with titles such as “Country Style,” “Euphoria,” “Fluff and Fold” and “Brilliant Blondes: 4 Pack,” former performer Brad Armstrong is one of pornography’s hottest directors. Challenging the recent trend toward reality and gonzo porn established by companies such as “Shane’s World” and “Bang Bros.,” Armstrong once again, with his newest film, “Manhunters,” shows his audience what a well-told story, sizzling cinematography and barely passable audio quality can do for the largest erogenous zone in the body — the mind.

“Manhunters” was the clear winner at the 2007 Adult Video News awards, taking home Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay and Best Anal Scene. The story of four female bounty hunters who hunt down a variety of naked criminals, “Manhunters” explores how women can handle themselves in a man’s world — though in this case, it seems these women have found that the best way is to have sex with them. Armstrong’s bold piece of action-erotica, though by no means flawless, delivers an engaging and arousing effort, sure to keep you on the edge of your seat and at the seam of your pants.

Any porn is only as good as its cast, and the cast of “Manhunters” successfully delivers one-dimensional, incomprehensible characters that don’t seem to recognize any motivation besides libido. Though this fails to provide tremendous conflict, the objective is thoroughly and repeatedly filled in all its many facets. The girls are strong, but they each have a soft spot that comes out when you least expect it. Some of the time, they show all three of their soft spots at once. Jessica Drake clearly distinguishes herself with a AVN-award-winning performance, occasionally making the slightest effort to convey emotion, even if this collapses at the drop of a pant.

The plot starts out soft, but with a little coaxing from the heroines it quickly gets hard and doesn’t quit. The bounties that the girls fulfill give the story an episodic nature, and each plot line penetrates deeper and harder into the viewer’s consciousness. Never boring though, many of these episodes force the characters to approach a situation from an entirely different angle, and these varied positions keep the heroines on their toes, and backs. More sensitive audiences might find Armstrong’s rough-and-tumble style less than stimulating, but the light touch of some of the more emotional scenes might be just what more delicate viewers need to “get there.”

Gradually, the viewer comes to truly love the manhunters and care about which one of them is going to have sex next. At its heart, this is the story of four women trying to cope in the phallocentric world of bounty hunting. Dealing with rival gangs, muscular opponents and constant accusations of being “bounty bitches,” the heroines struggle to maintain themselves as strong, independent women — a struggle perfectly encapsulated in the film’s intensely poetic anal scenes. The movie begins with an unnamed, large-butted woman passively receiving an ungraceful pounding from a lowlife criminal, who is quickly apprehended by the manhunters. Later, in a fit of self-doubt, the ever-confident heroine yields to the advances of an old flame and lets him in the backdoor to her heart. Finally, in the climactic final sex scene, the commanding, muscular, masculine and terrifying Jada Fire completely dominates her partner in her award-winning and nuanced anal opus.

The sex, however, does suffer from some glaring mistakes. First insertion, the most emotionally and dramatically loaded moment of all cinema, is often rushed or entirely skipped. This leaves the viewer in the middle of coitus without any idea how it happened — something Yale viewers may be all too familiar with. Expletives seem overly scripted, and it’s not clear whether Kirsten Price is shouting “Oh shit” out of unrestrained ecstasy or because of the 45 degree angle her back is making with the thinly padded floor. Fake breasts either hang like squirrels in burlap sacks or remain fused to the chest with frightening tenacity. Luckily, both Kirsten Price and Carmen Hart challenge this pornographic paradigm with regular sized, natural breasts in two of the most successful sex scenes of the movie.

The thrust of “Manhunters” stands up quickly and doesn’t quit until the credits roll. Some viewers might not be able to handle subject matter this big, but those relaxed enough to let Armstrong inside will find themselves satisfied, though they won’t be able to walk right for days. Engaging characters, pounding action and surging metaphors fill all the right places from start to finish. Right from the opening credits to the thrilling climax, this is without a doubt a video of people having sex.