It’s the stuff of classic crime fiction. In a region torn apart by crime, one man stands up for what’s right and takes down the criminals terrorising the innocent. But Cacciatore: The Hunter is based on actual events in 1990s Sicily, where prosecutor Alfonso Sabella (who’s book Cacciatore di Mafiosi is the basis for the series) waged a real-life war on the local Mafia. Like they used to say, the names have been changed to protect the innocent – not that you’ll find too many of the innocent here.
Prosecutor Saverio Barone (Francesco Montanari) isn’t an easy man to get along with. When we first meet him, he’s about to turn his boss in for corruption, and it’s hard to tell just how much it’s about integrity and how much it’s about taking his boss’s job. But in the 1990s Italy needs that kind of ruthlessness: after a recent attack left two high profile anti-Mafia prosecutors dead, the government is newly determined to face down organised crime and bring everyone, foot soldiers and big bosses alike, to justice.
Enter Chief Prosecutor Andrea Elia (Roberto Citran) of the Palermo anti-Mafia unit, with a chance for Barone go directly after the big fish. Only as Barone quickly learns, the fish he’s chasing aren’t so big after all. If you’re going to take down a web of crime, you have to do it strand by strand, grabbing the little guys and getting them to turn informant on the next one up the ladder. But slow and steady isn’t exactly his style.
Barone’s arrogant and often self-serving ways don’t win him a lot of friends around the office either. Fellow magistrate Carlo Mazza (Francesco Foti) is experienced, capable, determined, and in no way a fan of Barone. Their constant clashes don’t help either of them – they’re meant to be fighting the Mafia, not each other – but how is a man driven as much by ambition as a sense of justice going to make a name for himself when he has to work as part of a team?
Barone’s home life isn’t much better. Giada (Miriam Dalmazio) was his high school sweetheart who gave up her job as a curator in Rome to follow her husband to Sicily. Unfortunately, having a driven man determined to take down the local organised crime network as a partner doesn’t exactly set the scene for a stable home life. She wants to be the most important thing in his life; often it feels like she’s not even close.
Just as Barone steps into a new job, so does his opposite. Fresh out of prison and with the old boss under arrest, Leoluca Bagarella (David Coco) is the new head of the Montalto crime family. Notoriously violent (and when this series turns violent, it’s not something you’ll forget in a hurry), he seems like the right man at the right time to lead the family when they’re besieged by enemies on all sides.
It’s bad enough the law is stepping up their anti-Mafia activities. But Bagarella also has rival families to deal with, and not all of them are in the mood to keep things low-profile. There’s a lot of names to keep track of in the underworld; the ones to pay close attention to are Giovanni Brusca (Edoardo Pesce) and his younger brother Enzo Brusca (Alessio Praticò). Giovanni is bloodthirsty, ruthless, and keen to move into the top job. If it takes a war to do it, well, it seems like there’s already one brewing on the streets of Sicily.
Looking to avoid all this is Bagarella’s driver Tony and confidante (Paolo Briguglia). He might be as close to the big boss as anyone gets – apart from Bagarella’s wife, Vincenzina (Roberta Caronia) - but for him it’s just about trying to make a living… with the emphasis on the living part. So it’s a relief for him to discover that while Bagarella’s reputation makes him out to be a ruthless killer, he’s not a bad guy to work for. Unless you make life difficult for him.
Which is exactly what a key witness set to testify against Bagarella looks set to do. Bagarella has no interest in going back to jail, so he decides to change the witness’ mind by kidnapping his son. Trouble is, while this cuts short the case against him, it only inflames the already increasingly anti-Mafia mood amongst the police and citizens. Barone is especially outraged, swearing to save the thirteen year-old any way he can.
If Bagarella thought he had problems before, they just became a whole lot worse.
Cacciatore: The Hunter is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
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