Showrunner, creator, producer and uber “re-imaginator” David Weil can continue to hide behind the pre-constructed blarney of channeling his family history as a way of mitigating the fact that his dreadful lack of creativity and desperate desire to do something really worthwhile as a filmmaker was – in my eyes – lost from the start. This isn’t a love letter for the past; it’s a betrayal of dignity looking towards the future.
“Hunters” fails to pass the eye and smell tests for a reason – it is a total failure of a streaming spectacle in an era that values growing historical revisionism and funnelled propaganda far more than an honest attempt to tell an original story. If legendary director John Ford gave way to Stanley Kubrick who ceded to Steven Spielberg and then eventually J.J. Abrams, David Weil is the bastardized step-child fallout of what a modern-day millennial does with far too much time on his hands and far too little talent to navigate an industry craving to find their next David Fincher or Danny Boyle.
This latest Amazon streaming offer needs to be seen to be believed. because it is as profoundly dangerous as it is inherently misanthropic.
As a writer and storyteller myself, I find it appalling that someone could so brazenly manipulate historically sensitive facts to serve their cereal-box, cookie-cutter, run-of-the-mill plot twists so banal and predictable in nature that it literally leaves the viewer breathless. Fourth Reich conspiracies, human chess boards and Zyklon B shower scenes aside, this series is a putrid mess of film-school faux pas crammed into a viewing experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies and their potentially racist friends. The pilot left me uncomfortable and discombobulated; I came in expecting something daring, bold and unpredictable – and instead I was left feeling unnerved at the audacity to which Amazon felt that this project was worth supporting to help launch their Watchmen-style offering by not even having the decency to consult the Holocaust museum beforehand.
And how heartbreaking it must be to witness a living legend like Al Pacino waste the fleeting remaining years of his acting career by associating himself with such a project rooted in pure sensationalism with such a crass regard to its raison d’être? His involvement was no doubt heavily pursued as a form of legitimizing a half-baked, shitty idea and turning a coal straight into a diamond – especially ironic given that Mr. Pacino long abandoned his desire to be a real actor and instead transformed himself into a giant teat-sucking acting whore. How else can one explain his reasoning behind this godforsaken project?
Let’s see, take the most gruesome and conveniently accessible aspects of portraying the quintessential hollywood fabricated German vs. Jew paradigm from World War Two, spin them in ways that offend the victims and their descendants as much as possible, and produce a steaming heap of fictionalized pulp elements that Tarantino himself wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole. Weil seems to think that his grandmother’s plight in Auschwitz has all but guaranteed him immunity against any criticism that he might simply be exploiting memories of the past to help benefit his sudden turn of fame as a leading auteur when it fact he’s nothing more than a cunning poseur and an industry provocateur.
That’s how one ends up with this abomination of an artistic creation.
Hollywood has long taken the liberty of using the Holocaust as their inspiration for developing screenplays for mainstream accessibility. Bryan Singer’s favourite pastime as a director was to invoke powerful and iconic Nazi symbolism in every form – directly or indirectly (the underrated Apt Pupil, Magneto’s backstory in X-Men, the stillborn yet historically accurate Valkyrie). The great Laurence Olivier portrayed a Nazi in Marathon Man and a Jewish Nazi-hunter in The Boys From Brazil – both films that garnered their own controversy during the 1970’s for their liberal use of dystopian Nazi science fiction to help bolster a star-studded cast which included names like Dustin Hoffman, James Mason and Gregory Peck. But my issue rests not in the desire to find interesting narratives from history to juxtapose with crazy fake ideas, but in the responsibility of doing right by those struggling to tell their stories as accurately (and faithfully) as possible by not making fiction seem like it’s fact. And that’s literally why Hunters fails so miserably in its existence.
If Schindler’s List sets the bar for promoting an existentially respectful perspective on the Jewish genocide while educating millions about The Shoah, Hunters sinks to the lowest depth of pernicious pandering to the lowest-common denomination of commercial success. Instead of seeking tasteful absolution by introducing compelling characters and unique ideas, it cherry-picks the most emotionally sensitive and harrowing moments of the past to be ruthlessly exploited for our gratuitously binge-viewing pleasure.
And that’s especially surreal in 2020. For as badly as the rest of us need to be entertained to help take our minds off the reality which exists, Hunters brings out the worst in virtually everything we hold dear; a gruesome spectacle of woefully mediocre entertainment dressed up in a supposedly noble higher purposes that is as inauthentic as it is morally bankrupt.
David Weil could have done us all a favour and kept his lofty ambitions from slaughtering the last few kernels of morality which still exists in today’s dwindling imagination.