Review: Cartoonish ‘Hunters’

(Above source: YouTube video)

Hunters — Amazon Prime’s 10-episode Tarantino-inspired, fantasy/revenge series set in 1977 — follows an eclectic squad of Jews and gentiles, gruesomely settling scores with escaped Nazis who now call America home.

The plot: Thousands of Jew-hating escapees from Germany’s Third Reich are living in the US. Many of these assimilated Nazi scientists and military experts were recruited by the US government to help maintain nuclear superiority in the Cold War against the Soviet Union.

The question: Who among them are also secret conspirators supporting the resurgence of the “Fourth Reich” in America?

Enter the show’s protagonists — a 1970s’ urban version of Marvel’s Avengers.

Leading the group is Holocaust survivor and head Nazi Hunter recruiter Meyer Offerman (the marvelous and full-throttled Al Pacino). Carole Kane and Saul Rubinek provide moving performances as the Markowitz’s, elderly camp survivors who have a deep and very painful reason for seeking retribution.

Struggling actor Lonny Flash (Josh Radnor) and a Pam Grier-inspired Roxy Jones (Tiffany Boone) take revenge on Meyer’s targeted Nazi degenerates.

Vietnam veteran Joe Mizushima (Louis Ozawa), who suffers from PTSD, is dubious about some of Meyer’s more sadistic tactics for extracting information.

Sister Harriet (Kate Mulvany) is a young Jewish woman who fled the Nazis by hiding in a Catholic convent in England. She has no qualms about righteously – and super violently – kicking Nazi ass.

Kate Mulvany in Hunters on Amazon Prime
(Above: Kate Mulvany. Source: YouTube video)

The most significant relationship, however, is between Offerman and Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman), the teenage grandson of Ruth (Jeannie Berlin), a fellow Hunter who is suspiciously murdered in episode one. Jonah helps elevate the Hunter’s revenge mission, one that seeks to underscore the spiritual significance of Jewish culture, post Holocaust.

Logan Lerman and Al Pacino in Hunters on Amazon Prime
(Above: Logan Lerman and Al Pacino. Source: YouTube video)

Hunters frames the beginning of certain episodes with bizarre flashbacks of the horrendous, over-the-top crimes committed by the soon-to-be hunted Nazis. These include a Dr. Josef Mengele stand-in whose experiments to improve the effectiveness of German soldiers battling underwater involved pumping gallons of saltwater into Jewish subjects.

There’s also a camp commandant who killed every Jewish prisoner unable to sing on pitch or correctly pronounce the lyrics of his favorite song. And there’s the silly murderous rage of an Auschwitz staff sergeant whose Wagner serenade (Hitler’s favorite composer) is disrupted by the same Jewish musicians switching to “Hava Nagila” (seriously, “Hava Nagila”?).

Dylan Baker Hunters on Amazon Prime
(Above: Dylan Baker as Biff Simpson, one of the Nazi conspirators. Source: YouTube video)

The series infuses the Holocaust with elements of Men in Black and X-Files. There are also echoes of The Boys from Brazil (1978), starring Laurence Olivier as Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman and Gregory Peck as real-life war criminal Mengele. In that film, Hitler’s cloned DNA is implanted in six unsuspecting mothers across the globe. (Amazon Prime subscribers may want to stream The Boys from Brazil as a supplement to Hunters. It’s also available as a $3.99 rental on YouTube or free, with ads, on Tubi, Vudu or PopcornFlix. )

Hunters is powerfully inventive and ultimately compelling. But it also risks losing some viewers – if not deeply offending them – with its fictitious and sometimes cartoonish depictions of concentration camp atrocities.

For more, visit Amazon.

Editor’s note: Charlie Greenberg, a regular contributor to ‘The Savvy Screener,’ has composed original scores and songs for numerous off-Broadway productions and instrumental ensembles. His new album, ‘Songs of Male Middle-Age-Crazy!,’ is available from CDBaby.

About Charlie Greenberg

Charlie Greenberg is a NY-based theater and instrumental composer.

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