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'Hunters' Takes A Few Unusual Turns, but the Premise and Chills Are Worth Investigating
February 21, 2020  | By Ed Bark  | 1 comment
 


Promos for Hunters seem to be nearly as plentiful as ads for the lately besieged presidential campaign of Michael "Mike" Bloomberg.

That said, Amazon Prime couldn't break its bank no matter how hard it tried. But the big money walkup to this wildly imaginative series about Nazi track-downs, circa 1977, is clear evidence that Amazon thinks it has a hot one.

Starring Al Pacino (top) and debuting on Friday, Feb. 21 with Season One's ten episodes, Hunters is a barrelful of misdirection and vitality, disappointment, and exhilaration. The deadly business at hand – liquidating "goddamn, gold ribbon, Grade A Nazis" as Pacino's character puts it in the 90-minute first chapter – tends to be compromised at times by out-of-body side trips, including song-and-dance production numbers. Still, there's not yet enough goofiness to waylay the genuine chills and thrills running through the first five episodes made available for review.

The principal behind-the-camera maestro is executive producer Jordan Peele, whose feature film directorial debut with 2017's Get Out made him an instant, award-winning auteurHunters, which was created by newcomer David Weil, envisions an earlier world in which vicious, Germany-bred Nazis are not only plentiful but intent on launching a Fourth Reich in the United States. Given scant help from either the government or mostly dismissive law enforcement agencies, Pacino and his team are largely going it alone in their quest to kill before being killed. Along the way, elements of your basic Quentin Tarantino film tend to intrude upon Hunters and take away some of the tautness established in a jarring opening sequence in which a Maryland-dwelling, concentration camp butcher takes extreme action after a young guest recognizes him.

Pacino plays ultra-wealthy New Yorker Meyer Offerman, an uncompromising survivor of Nazi atrocities who asks a young recruit, "You know what the best revenge is? Revenge."

The recruit is 19-year-old Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman, top), whose beloved grandmother Ruth (Jeannie Berlin) has just been murdered in the apartment she shares with him. In flashbacks, we see that Ruth is also a concentration camp survivor who's played in those scenes by Annie Hägg (an uncanny ringer for Anne Hathaway).

Jonah initially is repelled by some of the methods Offerman's team deploys to get information from at-large Nazis. This hardly endears him to veteran team members such as Sister Harriet (Kate Mulvany), a tart, all business nun whose insults also fall on other team members. Offerman's entire group is introduced via a game show motif in Episode 2. They include the husband-and-wife team of Mindy and Murray Markowitz (veterans Carol Kane and Saul Rubinek), egotistical faded actor Lonny Flash (Josh Radnor), martial arts expert Joe Torrance (Louis Ozawa Changchien), and foxy Roxy Jones (Tiffany Boone).

The regular cast also includes a trio of Nazi plotters, with Lena Olin as "The Colonel," Dylan Baker as fellow war criminal Biff Simpson, and Greg Austin as a bloodthirsty, amoral, young American recruit named Travis Leich.

Working between these two battle lines is FBI agent Millie Malone (Jerrika Hinton), an African-American woman who laments in Episode 3, "It would be a whole lot easier at work if I had a penis and a white man's combover." Instead, she has a Latina live-in lover named Maria (Julissa Bermudez). 
Millie initially is investigating the mysterious gassing of an elderly woman whose very unsavory past is quickly exposed. This puts her on the scent of something bigger while also making her of extreme interest to the sinister Travis Leich.

Hunters isn't always well-stitched, but to point out particular plot holes would be giving away too much. Viewers also are left wondering (after the first five episodes) whether Offerman is who he says he is and if Sister Harriet might be a mole.

In the first episode, though, all is taut and terrifically staged. Also, look for a deft touch in which the same TV Guide with Farrah Fawcett on the cover is visible in three different venues. Lest we forget, the old pocket-sized version was America's biggest-selling magazine, with seemingly every household relying on it for the latest TV news and listings.

The TV landscape could be easily navigated back in 1977, when ABC, CBS, and NBC combined to draw more than 90 percent of viewers. Those weren't quite the days of CBS' Me and the Chimp, which came and quickly went five years earlier in 1972. But Hunters can't resist the dramatic license required for a TV news anchor to say, "And now back to your regular programming, Me and the Chimp," after an undercover Nazi lies on the air about his family being massacred at the pool party that opens Episode 1.

Critically speaking, it's still up in the air whether Hunters eventually will fall prey to its excesses or become the latest TV series that "everyone is talking about" no matter how bent it might become.  
One thing is certain, though. Nazis are pure, unadulterated vermin under all circumstances. So count me all in when Pacino's Offerman commands, "We leave shortly. Time for the hunt!"

(EDITOR'S NOTE: One of the writers of Hunters is Mark Bianculli, son of TVWorthWatching’s founder and editor.)

 
 
 
 
 
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1 Comments
 
 
Zeke
This is a foolish show. Instead of a thoughtful drama-- it runs like a cartoon.
Where did they get the idea to cast an Italian Pacino to play an Elder Jew, complete with accent?
Don't we have genuine Jewish Actors?
Feb 23, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
 
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