There’s a battle brewing, and it’s being fought by streaming services, cable TV and primetime television. If you’re too weak to resist, Erin Maxwell’s “UnBinged” reviews are here to help, telling you what to hate, what to love and what to love to hate. As city advisories ask us all to stay home to reduce Coronavirus spread, L.A. Weekly is offering more frequent and lengthier looks at the hottest streamable TV content that’s worth watching — or not, from Maxwell and the rest of our staff too.
Hunters | Amazon
After the murder of his grandmother, wunderkind-turned-drug dealer Jonah (Logan Lerman) learns that his “safta” was more than just a source of unconditional love and matzo ball soup. She was a soldier in a secret army, who long with her colleague/fellow Holocaust survivor Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino), helped destroy former Nazis who those who escaped punishment, hiding in plain sight throughout 1977 America.
David Weil and Jordan Peele’s Hunters borrows a page from the Indiana Jones playbook by casting Nazis as the bad guys and a ragtag group of vigilantes as the heroes. But despite boasting a great concept, Hunters execution is problematic. Pacino puts his high-energy “whoo-ah” schtick aside to play a Holocaust survivor who was once systemically tortured by a Nazi doctor known as the Wolf. His cat-and-mouse antics with finding hidden SS soldiers, as well as his interactions with Jonah, help ground the series with moments of brilliance, an effort that is quickly defeated by the cartoon antics of his co-stars.
The tonal shifts in the show are quite jarring. Moments of absolute horror depicting the very worst of humanity are quickly pushed aside by comic-book style character introductions and random dance numbers. It’s a narrative device used to some success by shows like FX’s American Horror Story. But AHS succeeds because of its ability to keep a consistent high level of camp throughout its hour, even during the more appalling moments. Hunters flounders due to jerky transitions from deeply disturbing events to an over-the-top B-movie, action piece that seems out of place.
It should be noted that the series is catching heat within the Jewish community for its use of stereotypes and treatment of the Holocaust. This is a legitimate issue with the show, as it exaggerates very real, very ghastly events from history for the sake of melodrama. Its hyperbole makes light of events that are currently under scrutiny by ignoramuses who claim it never happened, and that makes the show however entertaining, a bit irresponsible.
There are also inconsistencies with the characters as unsettling as the shifts in tone. The subtle and textured performances put in by Pacino and Lerman are quickly made nil by the over-the-top shenanigans of Josh Radner’s Lonny Flash, a movie star who only speaks in Judaica puns.
Hunters has some important messages, but they’re garbled in the delivery. The show boasts great performances in key roles, carrying the premise in an original way that’s at times super fun to watch, but the drastic deviations in style and narrative makes for an all-around uneven viewing experience.
So, should you binge it? There are worse ways to spend your home isolation time, but despite a great turn by Pacino and a fantastic first episode, this might not be the Jewish Justice League you were hoping for.