Al Pacino may be a little long in the tooth to join the Justice League, but he’s still found a way to climb on the superhero bandwagon with “Hunters,” a Holocaust-avenging drama so eager to emulate a comic book genre it fails to capture the pain generated by one of the ugliest chapters in world history.
The 79-year-old Oscar winner plays Meyer Offerman, a concentration camp survivor who has become a successful jewelry salesman in 1970s America.
But his real passion is supervising a ragtag team of patriots, including a hell-on-wheels nun, a Foxy Brown clone and an egotistical actor who keeps losing roles to Richard Dreyfuss.
Their mission: tracking down Nazis secretly plotting a comeback stateside and putting them through the same kind of tortures they inflicted on Jews during the war.
One former guard gets trapped in her bathroom shower as gas pours into her glassed-in stall. Another, who used to put a bullet through the head of off-key prisoners, is tied to his piano and forced to listen to Little Richard at full volume until his eardrums burst. Good golly.
The latest member of the squad is Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman), a whiz kid whose disdain for violence becomes superseded by his desire to get back at those who murdered his grandmother, who was a member of Offerman’s version of the Avengers. He doesn’t have any superpowers, unless you count his encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel and DC catalogs.
In case his debates with buddies over the importance of Batman’s sidekick, Robin, don’t remind you that you’re in comic book land, the cheesy dialogue will.
The characters talk in cliches — “You know what the best revenge is? Revenge” — that could have been lifted from Stan Lee’s diaries. The bad guys are more intent on being colorful than callous, most notably a cheesy assassin who sings “The Impossible Dream” as he tries to mow down his opponents during a gunfight and blows the kneecaps off his captives in a vicious game of duck, duck, goose.
Dylan Baker’s evil mastermind, determined to create a Fourth Reich, relies so heavily on camp — and a ridiculously thick accent — you’d swear he was auditioning to be the next Bond villain.
There are even “second” endings after the credits, a gimmick that has kept “Iron Man” fans glued to their theater seats long after they discover who the film’s gaffer was.
Creator David Weil is clearly using the comic book approach to shed some light on a tragedy we should never forget. It’s an admirable concept, one that’s worked in the past.
HBO’s “Watchmen” was one of the most haunting shows of 2019, in large part because of how the writers kept referencing the 1921 massacre of Black Wall Street in Tulsa. For all of that show’s humor, you still couldn’t help but get the chills.
The Hunters and their prey are having way too much fun to trigger any goose bumps — and no one is having more of a blast than Pacino.
He isn’t in a ton of scenes, but when he glides into the action, he makes the most of it. He’s so over the top, you’re convinced that he’s going to celebrate plunging a knife into a rival’s hand by yelling, “Hoo-ah!”
Those who enjoy campy Pacino will get a kick out of seeing the Oscar winner in his first TV series. Those who feel the Holocaust should be taken a little more seriously will be a little offended.
★★½ out of 4 stars
When and where: Now streaming on Amazon Prime.