Hunters - it Shoah ain't Schindler

Hunters, an Amazon Prime original series whose 10-episode Season 1 premiered in February, is about a fictional band of Nazi hunters, going after former members of the Third Reich, in 1977 New York. The premise, of Nazis who escaped the long arm of the law and the Nuremberg Trials, and made it to the US, is an interesting one. That heinous regime, its practitioners and perpetrators, and their aftermath post World War II, has always been a fertile ground for fiction explored by countless books and movies, like The Odessa File (1974), Marathon Man (1976) and Boys from Brazil (1978).


With a pedigree boasting of producer Jordan Peele, who directed the subversive anti-racism horror flick Get Out (2017), and Al Pacino in the lead, much was expected of this series. It starts quite promisingly with an innocuous family barbecue that turns into a bloodbath, followed by a quick series of seemingly unconnected deaths. One of those deaths, of a young man's safta (Hebrew for grandmother, and one of many Hebrew words like kindelah (child) and Shoah (The Holocaust) that you will pick up), leads that young man, Jonah Heidelbaum (played by Logan Lerman) to the band of Hunters led by Meyer Offerman. Meyer is played by one of the all time greats of Hollywood, Al Pacino, who if you can believe it, just turned 80 last month. In a career spanning 50 years, you just have to close your eyes and reflect, and so many unforgettable scenes will appear from the number of iconic roles done by him, any single one of which alone would be a lifetime legacy for most lesser actors. From Michael Corleone, the reluctant son thrust into the family business in the Godfather trilogy (1972, 1974, 1990), to the cop uncovering corruption in his department in Serpico (1973), the bank robber shouting "Attica, Attica" in Dog Day Afternoon (1975), the drug king Tony Montana in Brian De Palma's Scarface (1983) asking his attackers to "say hello to my little friend" in one of the bloodiest movie climaxes of all time, to his lone, and it's a travesty that he hasn't won more than one, Oscar Award winning role as blind Lt Col Slade saying "Hoo-aah" in Scent of a Woman (1992). He hasn't slowed down over the years, and just last year he played Jimmy Hoffa in Martin Scorcese's The Irishman (2019), that I reviewed here.


There are some genuine questions raised about the unspeakable horror and evil that humans can inflict on one another, especially when sanctioned by a government or higher power, and the power of forgiveness in the face of, and in response to, that horror, whether there is ever any true catharsis in vengeance, how much hate and retribution is enough in return before it changes the soul of the victim and potentially puts him on the same level as the original perpetrator. The script and screenplay, however, don't quite do justice to this tale of revenge and redemption. Too many things are thrown in (I won't give away any spoilers) and it creates a smorgasbord of many of the conspiracy theories floating around today, with the final episode truly going off the rails into outlandish territory. There are also some cartoonish, breaking the fourth wall, segues into humor that come out of the blue, don't contribute anything to the narrative, and are completely incongruous to the ethos of the show. You will see echoes of the resurgence of anti-Semitism happening in the country today, with many references that will be instantly recognizable, such as the language used in the events of Charlottesville in 2017, but sometimes they seem gratuitously included just for the sake of doing so. There are some nods to real people like the OG of Nazi hunters, Simon Wiesenthal, and the Nazi rocket scientist Wernher von Braun who helped the US get to the Moon, incorporated into the fictional universe of this story.


All in all, Hunters sets out well on the hunt, but in the end, doesn't quite get its quarry.


May 16, 2020

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