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True-Crime Drama, 'Manhunt,' Drops on Acorn
March 11, 2019  | By David Hinckley
 

Fair warning: Martin Clunes (top) isn’t much more cheerful in the new series Manhunt than he is in Doc Martin. But he’s just as good.

Manhunt, which becomes available Monday on the streaming service Acorn, dramatizes the real-life investigation by British police into the 2004 murder of 22-year-old French student Amélie Delagrange.

Clunes plays Detective Inspector Colin Sutton, who was in charge of the case and on whose real-life memoir the three-part series is based.

As the premise suggests, Manhunt focuses on the investigation, which was notable because the police had few clues with which to work and yet, in the end, found more answers than anyone expected.

The investigation lasted two years, and Manhunt traces the painstaking process by which a case was built, one small factoid at a time.

The drama itself and the process don’t differ much from the dramas in fictional cases laid out for years on television police procedurals.

The creators of Manhunt make this one stand out because they humanize the real-life pain and pressures that went into it.

The Delagrange investigation was the first of which Sutton had full charge, and in the beginning, there are signs of hesitation. While he never has any doubts where to go with the police part, his superior Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Murphy (Peter Forbes) at times comes across as a helicopter boss.

More importantly, Murphy and other superiors warn Sutton against attempting to link Delagrange’s murder with other recent deaths in the area.

Without proof, they argue, such a speculative link might trigger public panic over the specter of a serial killer.

Unfortunately, Sutton replies, a serial killer may be just what’s out there, and he systematically begins broadening his investigation to look at details from those other killings.

While Clunes dominates the show, he’s ably supported by the rest of the cast, most of them portraying police officers. Katie Lyons is a strong presence as his chief aide, Detective Sergeant Jo Brunt, and Stephen Wight adds nice touches as Detective Constable Clive Grace.

We meet Sutton’s family almost in passing, and while they’re fleshed out, Manhunt doesn’t spend any more time than necessary on personal dramas. We do get a sense of how a high-profile case like this can become a 24/7 priority that diminishes time available for anything unrelated.  

When we meet Amélie’s family, we spend enough time with them to appreciate the impact of their daughter’s death.

Still, Manhunt never ventures far from the nuts and bolts of the investigation, focusing on the skill and occasional luck with which Sutton and his team gradually turn potential scenarios into likely scenarios into actionable evidence.

The perp isn’t an evil genius. He does have some idea how to cover his tracks, and the seemingly random selection of a victim – Delagrange was only in the wrong spot because she had missed her bus stop and had to get off and walk back – makes it difficult for Sutton and his team to establish patterns or determine motive.

Clunes, who returns this fall in what will apparently be the last season of Doc Martin, maintains that same familiar dour face here. He’s measurably more human, though, and his seriousness stems more from the nature of the case than misanthropy.  

Manhunt provides three solid, engaging hours, with a real-life ending that in no way compensates for a young girl’s death, but does drop a little something on the other side of the scales of justice.

 
 
 
 
 
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