Al Pacino (left) as Meyer Offerman and Logan Lerman as...

Al Pacino (left) as Meyer Offerman and Logan Lerman as Jonah Heidelbaum in Amazon Prime Video's "Hunters." Credit: Amazon Prime Video/Christopher Saunders

SERIES "Hunters"

WHEN|WHERE Starts streaming Friday on Amazon Prime Video


 

WHAT IT'S ABOUT It's 1977 and memories of World War II are fading — but not for Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino, in his first regular TV series role), a mysterious, wealthy New Yorker. He befriends a kid from Brooklyn, Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman), who is mourning the death of his beloved grandmother Ruth  Jeannie Berlin). LIke Offerman, she was also a death camp survivor. She was murdered in cold blood, and when Jonah sets out to find the killer, he learns that his new friend and benefactor has been hunting for Nazis — Nazis hiding in plain sight who want to establish a Fourth Reich in America. Meyer's even got some bad-ass hunter/helpers in his employ, like Murray Markowitz (Saul Rubinek), wife Mindy (Carol Kane), Sister Harriet (Kate Mulvany), Roxy Jones (Tiffany Boone) and Lonny Flash (Josh Radnor). Jonah wants to join these vigilantes after he finds out his beloved "bubbe" was targeted by one of the bad guys. 

This ten-part thriller from executive producer Jordan Peele was created by Great Neck native David Weil, who based some elements on the experiences of his own grandmother, a Holocaust survivor. 

MY SAY The war in Europe ended May 8, 1945 but as far as pop culture was concerned, the Nazis were just beginning. Grindhouse cinema has turned out dozens of Nazi zombie films, with subgenres devoted to Nazi mutants, demons, and (yes) Nazi puppets. On the extreme opposite end of the spectrum are the comparatively staid Nazi-hunter movies such as "The Odessa File" and "Marathon Man." They've shared one common theme (revenge) and one reliable outcome (dead Nazis — even the undead ones). 

"Hunters" owes a little something to them all, but its sourcing goes even deeper, to the Marvel universe, and a vast sprawl of the DC Comics one too. Quentin Tarantino, master of the pulp pastiche, was obviously an inspiration, but so was Stan Lee, creator of Professor X, the model for Pacino's Offerman.

"Hunters"' — to be clear — is a genre series and within that context, it's good, occasionally very good. Weil has nailed most of the genre conventions, notably the dialogue, which can be funny and could fit perfectly into speech bubbles if "Hunters" was a graphic novel — which essentially it is. This genre also demands excess, and "Hunters" is awash in that too. Members of the excellent cast know what they need to do, and they waste no time in doing it, then overdoing it some more. Lerner's Jonah is almost a grounding influence, which must be a lot harder than it looks amid this crowd of actor's actors, including one of the world's most famous ones. We've all seen this Pacino before, too, or some variation of him, from Bobby of "The Panic in Needle Park" through to Jimmy Hoffa in "The Irishman."   

Meanwhile, there's lots of violence, typically extreme, usually cartoonish. Some bad guy gets his bridgework rearranged with a bowling ball. A couple of Nazis learn the hard way not to leave anything sharp around when the Hunters drop by. 

But "Hunters" also wants to be a personal tribute, a remembrance, an attempt to come to terms with the unthinkable. (January 27 marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, so the timing of this is not coincidental). As Jonah sorts through his grandmother's letters, where she recounts her years in various camps, there are harrowing flashbacks and the violence suddenly is not so cartoonish. The pulpy "Hunters'' suddenly morphs into "Shoah." Balancing acts are tough enough. This one just might be impossible.

BOTTOM LINE Good Pacino, skillful pulp, but an impossible balancing act.     

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