You probably haven't seen anything quite like Amazon's new series, Hunters in a while—if ever. Centered on a team of New York City-based Nazi hunters in the 1970s, the show jumps from bloody, pulpy, over-the-top B-movie goodness in one moment to an earnest Holocaust flashback moment within a single moment. The show embraces it's status as a revenge fantasy, often feeling like a live-action comic book and taking cues from the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Stan Lee. There are also moments where things get grim and incredibly solemn—Holocaust flashbacks tend to do that. If that's not enough to pique your interest, this might: the titular team of Hunters is led by Al Pacino, in his first ever television role.
But Pacino isn't the lead of Hunters; that distinction, instead, goes to Logan Lerman.Having done movies of all different genres in the past—his most notable being coming-of-age drama The Perks of Being a Wallflower, war movie Fury, and the fantastical Percy Jackson series—Lerman is a perfect fit to lead Amazon's new balancing act.
"It’s such a mismash of tones—I was curious to see how they were all going to fit together," he said in an interview with Men's Health. "There were definitely moments that felt very grounded, and truthful. There were a lot of moments that were heightened, and over the top, and could be melodramatic, or really funny and all over the place, tonally. And I’m curious to see how all of that is going to work."
And his curiosity seems appropriate. Hunters has moments where the show gets incredibly sodden and downtrodden (an early funeral scene is heartbreaking) that go hand-in-hand with moments that are also chillingly scary (the show's very first scene finds an undercover Nazi officer massacring an entire backyard cookout) and shockingly-quirky (the titular team of Hunters are introduced by way of a girl lighting her Bot Mitzvah candles).
By riding the historical fiction wave, Hunters feels like a relative to both Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds and HBO's Watchmen, but the mood feels significantly different from those projects, too.
Lerman's character, Jonah, is the story's anchor; a number of wild characters and happenings revolve around him, and it's his job to sort of be the eyes, ears, and mouth of what the viewers tend to be thinking.
"Jumping around from the tones was definitely...interesting, for me, as an actor, and I felt very protective of my character," he says. "I tried to make sure that whatever we were doing next—even if it was a tonal shift—made sense to me, and was cohesive with the rest of what was happening in the season."
After a home invader kills his grandmother—his only surviving family member—a mysterious and very rich old man named Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino) shows up at her funeral and tells Jonah that he spent time in the concentration camps with his grandmother. From here, Meyer slowly lures Jonah into the world that will make up the remainder of the show: a specialized group of Nazi hunters, determined to take down the group that's insidiously growing in the dark of the fictional version of the country.
The first one to be cast in Hunters, Lerman wasn't followed long after by Pacino, who's making his television regular debut. "When he came on board the project, I was just thrilled to be in good company," Lerman says. The duo has a relationship that's hardly uncharted ground—think Obi-Wan teaching Luke about the world of the Jedi in Star Wars—but with something of a deeper shared connection; the two men are separated by 50 years in age, but their post-holocaust Judaism bonds them forever—especially with Jonah's family gone.
Lerman has tackled World War II before, and thus, a Nazi story, before—he played one of the leads (alongside Brad Pitt and Shia Labeouf) in Fury, a 2014 film that depicted a tank crew during the final days of the war. While that story, too, was fictional, it was at least grounded in reality; Hunters is entirely revenge fantasy, a story that aims not to write a history book, but to give its viewers (and hopefully, fans) a feeling of catharsis in watching Nazis get their proper comeuppance.
Having grown up in a Jewish household—his paternal grandfather was born in Berlin, before fleeing Germany to Shanghai in the '30s due to the Nazi regime—Lerman says that he felt he could be more of an "authenticity officer" on Hunters than some of his other roles. "I could speak out for the truths of growing up in a Jewish household and some of the details on screen," he said.
While executive producer Jordan Peele had a rather pointed answer as to why now was the right moment for Hunters ("This idea of Nazis in America, embedded in our system, is one that hits very close to home right now," he told the AP at the show's premiere), Lerman wasn't as quick to make the same call. "I don't know," he said, after a moment of contemplating the show's place in our current cultural and social ecosystem. " I don't really know why it's the right time. I think audiences decide that. Amazon clearly thought it was the right time—I'd love to ask them."
Regardless of the reasoning behind the why or the when that went into Hunters, it's out now, and ready for all of it's revenge fantasy, Nazi-killing, genre-bending fun to be taken in at whatever pace you prefer. Lerman, to that end, has a couple thoughts.
"Oh shit," he says, both thinking out loud and joking about the best way to watch his new show. "If you can binge 10 or 11 hours of television, I mean...you’ve got to get out of the house more. Maybe you should spread that out. You know, it’s not healthy. Don’t do that."
If the show is addicting enough, though, he might just be underestimating the speed and commitment of some TV-loving fans.
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