The Hunter

Photograph: Channel 4
Rating 8.0
Streamer All4
Seasons 1
Episodes 12 x 60 mins

The opening scene of The Hunter, with its scorching skies and swaying grass, is sure to have you itching to board a plane and jet off for warmer climes. At least, it will for the first few seconds, until it cuts to archive footage of a bloody corpses, strewn across the street in a gory montage that is certain to put you off your dinner.

Because, despite the Mediterranean location, this series couldn’t be further from your dreams of a post-pandemic sun holiday, spent sipping a crisp white and spooning aubergine caponata into your mouth. This is the 1990s, blood-soaked Sicily, with the Corleone mafia in charge, backed up by their army of 28,000 men.

The series is based on the book by Alfonso Sabella, the now 58-year-old prosecutor who wrote of his time pursuing the Sicilian mafia during the state war of the 90s. Here, he is Saverino Barone, a somewhat arrogant and determined police officer, driven by a sense of duty to denounce his boss who he suspects is embedded in the Cosa Nostra. But, with mobsters lining every pavement, with eyes on every corner, his moral compass might cost him his life.

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Team Must are absolute suckers for a foreign language series, thoroughly enjoying being transported via telly to another place and time, and this brilliant production from Channel 4’s Walter Presents doesn’t disappoint. The stylised series sucks us into the violent and bloody period in Sicily’s history, telling us its story in a novel-like way, honing in on the small details and creating a compelling if uncomfortable account of the period. And unlike some of the other mobster dramas we know and love, they’ve decided against giving their characters small redeeming traits which make us question whether they’re so bad after all – here they’re repugnant, vicious criminals, but every bit as watchable as Tony Soprano.

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Foreign language series often don’t get as much press as Anglophone telly, often slipping under our English-centric radar, but The Financial Times’s Dan Einav picked this one up and calls it “hugely watchable.” He says, “while The Hunter is by no means just a mindless parade of violence and cruelty, it does see the value in delivering sharply paced, ultra-stylised…and pulpy thrills.” It must really be watchable, as The Guardian’s Euan Ferguson says he “binged all 12 episodes in the first series (at least an hour apiece), so gave thanks at the end that there’s a second series to wait for: it’s like that good book you never want to end.” This could be down to the fact-led premise, with Francesca Angelini in The Times saying “what makes this edgy series stick out is how closely it follows the facts.”

First shown April 2021.

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