Al Pacino as the leader of a Jewish Nazi-hunter gang in the 70s is not something you expect to see every day. But creator David Weil has made this whacky revenge drama a reality, with Hunters first premiering on Amazon Prime on February 21st, 2020. The new 10-part web-TV show has sparked controversy overnight, with its comedic nature and graphic tendencies not pairing well with a Holocaust backdrop for some viewers. For others, however, the daring show has been a huge success, celebrating the Jewish culture while bringing to light the true atrocities that plague our past.
If Al Pacino is the face of Hunters, Logan Lerman is the spine of the story. Jonah, played by Lerman, is your average high school grad, unexpectedly recruited by Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino) after his safta is brutally murdered. But what Jonah doesn’t expect is to join a seven-member gang of Nazi-hunters, each with their own vengeful motives. An MI6 nun, a war veteran, a movie star and various other bizarre characters make up the Hunters, making it a fun and dynamic group to watch.
Within this hybrid genre of entertainment is a strong message of justice and morality. Despite the violent nature of the show, Hunters always has its characters weighing the balance between good and evil. A key heroic trope is employed, reminiscent of The Dark Knight trilogy (dir. Christopher Nolan, 2005-12), whereby a true hero is one who admits to being a villain – not doing what is right, “but what is necessary.” Such is the job of The Hunters.
This is an important idea to keep in mind when watching Hunters, as some viewers have criticized the series handling of sensitive topics. There is a fine line between being funny, being honest and being crass – one which Hunters tiptoes ever so shakily on. Many have condemned Weil’s glamorization of violence, though with the works of Tarantino now being praised to an almost holy status, whose to reprimand a show not too stylistically different from Inglorious Basterds (2009).
With that said, Hunters moral compass always remains in check via Weil’s constant reminders that these people really existed, really suffered, and really do deserve revenge. Hunters manages to avoid dangerous waters by turning the camera on itself, mocking America’s reputation even more so than Germany. Consumer culture, racism and America’s dark history, covered up by the government and media, are called out in Hunters drive for social justice.
Not only this, but these short, striking political punchlines are deposited in witty and creative ways. Retro daytime television inserts break the fourth wall to a deliver punchy, insightful messages…as relevant now as they were in the 70s. Cutting away to a talk show clip on “How to Find a Nazi” (answer: “White People”), a game show on “Why Does Everyone Hate the Jews?” or corny advert for immigration to America satirizes ignorant Western optimism and cultural nonchalance towards prejudice. A daring but vital trait of the show.
Despite its obvious flaws, Hunters is a stylistic snapshot that stays true to its era. From the wardrobe to the soundtrack, Hunters is suave and confident, tackling controversial issues without hesitation. Had Weil held back on these hard-hitting themes, the show could have easily fallen into a generic recycling of mundane plot lines. Luckily, the audacious and diverse black-comedy drama has a clear soul to it, allowing Weil to get away with some unfortunate downfalls.
Of course, the nature of a TV series forces a story to be split into parts. Hunters, with its wide-reaching range of characters, cuts itself up even more, with multiple narrative strands. This style of film-making is essentially down to preference. Maybe you like stories to be broken down into smaller, digestible chunks; or maybe you prefer a tightly braided and focused narrative flow. Either way, Hunters takes a more split-screen approach to storytelling,
A potential flaw of Hunters is trying to explore too many characters in a short amount of time. Not every tragic Holocaust backstory, revenge plot and personal journey can be thoroughly developed in just ten episodes – not when you have at least twelve key characters on your hands. On a similar note, the concluding plot twist arrives a little too early in the story. Despite it being the final episode, Hunters would have benefited more from slowing down and spreading the story over two or three seasons. Such an intense and historically rich narrative won’t have the same emotional impact when it’s rushed. Everything began and wrapped up in a matter of hours, which is only a downside because the unique tale is so investing.
Whether or not you approve of the contentious social commentary, what cannot be denied is the importance of Hunters honesty. Weil weaves various true events into the story, lifting up the US rug and sending viewers straight to Google, wondering if such things really took place. The answer is: Yes, they did. At one point, Weil even directly alerts the viewer that “Yup, that shit really happened” after parodying the US government, who really did employ Nazi scientists at NASA.
Amazon has yet to confirm a second season of Hunters, however the idea is not completely out of the question. With a fairly positive reception and open-ended conclusion, who knows where The Hunters will end up next.