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While 'Hunters' is a Powerful Series, Keep in Mind the Savagery is Nothing Like the Reality of the Third Reich
February 21, 2020  | By David Hinckley  | 2 comments
 


Spoiler alert: You might not sleep peacefully after watching Hunters, an Amazon Prime series that becomes available Friday.

Hunters, named for an extra-legal band of citizens pursuing unreconstructed Nazis 32 years after World War II, hammers home its message by creating situations that are shocking and characters who are worse.

In the Hunters world, several hundred deeply committed German Nazis who escaped the Allied nets after World War II, bided their time until 1977, ingratiating themselves into unsuspecting American communities.

Well-organized, financed, and connected, they are now poised to resume Adolf Hitler's genocidal agenda and, if all goes according to plan, launch the Fourth Reich.

It's an apocalyptic scenario, kin to Amazon's Man in the High Castle and The Plot Against America, an adaptation of a Philip Roth novel that premieres next month on HBO.

In Hunters, these Nazis have positioned themselves in such a clandestine way that American politicians and law enforcement agencies see no need to consider any protective measures. The American people take no warnings from the small actions that have eroded democracy.

So the effective opposition falls to the Hunters, a New York-based group led by Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino, top).

Pacino, always good, is remarkable as Offerman, a wealthy and influential businessman who fears, sadly not without cause, that the defeat of Germany did not end the persecution of Jews.

Those who are not themselves persecutors, he further fears, become enablers through passive indifference.

The other pivotal character in Hunters is Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman, top), a whip-smart and sometimes annoying nerd recently out of high school. He lives with and supports his last surviving relative, his grandmother, who made it out of the camps.

Jonah drifts along until a shocking event brings him into Offerman's circle of hunters, where he's the youngest and least experienced. On the plus side, he has skills that older members, like Murray and Mindy Markowitz (Saul Rubinek and Carol Kane), do not.

The good guys' lineup is stacked. While they all have quirks, we like them and fervently want them to win.

At the same time, like so many good guys vs. bad guys shows, the drama in Hunters rises and falls with the bad guys.

Their leader is "The Colonel" (Lena Olin), though we first meet them through a former concentration camp guard reincarnated as all-American Biff Simpson (Dylan Baker). And they are joined by others.

Their amorality and cruelty, unredeemed by any trace of humanity, make the mission of the Hunters feel like the Lord's work.

When we first meet Offerman, he tells Jonah the Talmud teaches that "Living well is the best revenge."

By the end of the episode, when he has, with some hesitation, welcomed Jonah into their band, he says, "The Talmud is wrong. Living well is not the best revenge. The best revenge is revenge."

The bone-chilling depravity of these Nazis makes Offerman's words seem like the only reasonable response. The Hunters are defending their people and human decency, the same way Charles Bronson or Clint Eastwood was defending basic human decency in the vigilante and vengeance movies of the 1970s.

Like those films, Hunters also triggers a note of hesitation, rooted in its specific acts of inhuman depravity.

It's not that what the Nazis do here feels inconsistent with what Germans did in the 1940s. It's more that those real-life actions were so appalling, so at odds with all civilized decency, that it never feels necessary to invent any further atrocities.

No scripted drama ever will match the real-life, real-people Nazi stories that have been heard and documented. No screenwriter can conjure acts that would be worse.

So as much as the bad guys in Hunters send our adrenalin surging, we just need to remember that flesh-and-blood Nazis, not actors, set the standard for crimes against humanity.

With that in mind, Hunters and Pacino create compelling television.

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

 
 
 
 
 
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2 Comments
 
 
Zeke
This show is total trash.
So much like a cartoon. It is not a thoughtful drama
And....what is an ethnic Pacino doing laying an Elder Jew???
Don't we have top Jewish actors??
Feb 23, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
Zeke
This show is total trash.
So much like a cartoon. It is not a thoughtful drama
And....what is an ethnic Pacino doing laying an Elder Jew???
Don't we have top Jewish actors??
Feb 23, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
 
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