×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Maktub’

Israeli TV comedy duo Guy Amir and Hanan Savyon hit the big screen with a very funny goodfellas-make-good tale.

Director:
Oded Raz
With:
Guy Amir, Hanan Savyon, Itzik Cohen, Igal Naor, Chen Amsalem, Anastasia Fein, Benjamin Schwebe, Edna Blilious, Arie Kerner, Abraham Selectar, Michael Mishayev, Gal Amitai, Eli Haviv.

1 hour 46 minutes

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt7252000/reference

Successful Israeli TV duo Guy Amir and Hanan Savyon jump to the big screen with sparkling results in “Maktub,” a very funny and warmhearted comedy about two goodfellas who are jolted out of bad-guy work and into that of guardian angels. Oded Raz nimbly directs their clever script, whose array of colorful characters elicit sharp work from an excellent cast. Combining darker elements (including some jarring violence) with goofy and sentimental ones, this is a mainstream comedy with significant export as well as remake potential.

Steve (Savyon) and Chuma (Amir) are introduced flaunting their know-how as gourmands at a Jerusalem restaurant whose owner nervously awaits their approval. But their business isn’t strictly gastronomical: They are collectors of protection money for mobster Kaslassy (Itzik Cohen). When the joint’s new chef announces he’ll no longer pay such blood money, our protagonists doff their napkins and beat him to a bloody pulp. Later, feeling peckish, they pop into another eatery, leaving a Chechen bagman outside holding the day’s accumulated loot. Fate (i.e., the Arabic term “maktub”) places them in the restroom when a bomb goes off — becoming the only people in the establishment to survive a terrorist attack.

Both are duly shaken. But it’s superstitious Chuma who interprets the event and subsequent “signs” as a clear directive that they end their criminal ways and take a new, altruistic path. By chance they’ve acquired a message some stranger placed in the cracks of the Wailing Wall. Chuma determines they must do whatever it takes to make this man’s wish come true. It doesn’t turn out to be so hard — a little strong-arming of the guy’s boss magically produces the increased salary and leisure time requested. What’s more, helping others proves an exhilarating novelty.

Still, Steve is ready to hop on the next plane to America, before the boss figures out they’ve stolen the briefcase of cash. (They blame its disappearance on the missing Chechen, who died in the explosion.) Chuma insists they continue playing fairy godfathers for Wall wishers, a task that briefly gets each of them in drag — but more importantly introduces Steve to a pretty Russian single-mother émigré (Anastasia Fein as Doniasha). He enjoys arranging a lavish bar mitzvah for her son, even as Chuma continues to nag him about neglecting his own — but not too hard because secretly Chuma is basically parenting his buddy’s child while also teetering on the verge of romance with his sexy ex-wife (Chen Amsalem as Lizo).

Things bog down a tad around the two-thirds point as various misunderstandings and conflicts burden our normally none-too-thoughtful protagonists with fears of commitment. But the pacing bounces back before arriving at a sweetly low-key happy ending.

Beyond their obvious talent as a writing team, Amir and Savyon have terrific chemistry — particularly with each other but also with their love interests here. They and Raz are generous with other players as well, notably letting Cohen and Igal Naor riff most enjoyably as a villainous buddy act echoing our stars’ sympathetic one.

The light, droll touch applied overall lets the filmmakers get away with a few fairly graphic moments that remind us criminal violence is no joke. These also pass fleetingly enough not to sour the genial mood.

A largely accordion-based score by Ron Bagno is one more pleasant element in a movie that has no lack of endearing qualities.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Maktub'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Jan. 13, 2018. (In Palm Springs Film Festival—World Cinema Now. Also in Chicago Film Festival.) Running time: 106 MIN.

Production: (Israel) A Firma Films and United King Films production in association with Israel Film Fund and Jerusalem Film & Television Fund. (International sales: Firma, Tel Aviv.) Producers: Adar Shafran, Moshe Edry, Leon Edry, Roni Abramowsky.

Crew: Director: Oded Raz. Screenplay: Hanan Savyon, Guy Amir. Camera (color, HD): Itai Neeman. Editor: Amit Ginton. Music: Ron Bagno.

With: Guy Amir, Hanan Savyon, Itzik Cohen, Igal Naor, Chen Amsalem, Anastasia Fein, Benjamin Schwebe, Edna Blilious, Arie Kerner, Abraham Selectar, Michael Mishayev, Gal Amitai, Eli Haviv.

More Film

  • Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider'

    Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider' Gets a Concert/Screening Premiere at Radio City

    In a year full of major 50th anniversary commemorations — from Woodstock to the moon landing — why not one for “Easy Rider,” Dennis Hopper’s hippie-biker flick that was released on July 14, 1969? That was the idea when a rep for Peter Fonda, who starred in the film as the laid-back Captain America, reached out [...]

  • Costa Gavras

    Costa-Gavras and Cast on Nationality, Identity, and Cinema

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Though he’s been based in Paris since 1955 and came up through the French film industry, director Costa-Gavras has never forgotten his roots. “Those who are born Greek,” said the Peloponnese-born filmmaker at a Saturday press conference,  “stay Greek all their lives.” The once-and-always Greek was not just in San Sebastian to [...]

  • Lorene Scafaria, Jennifer Lopez. Lorene Scafaria,

    'Hustlers' Director Lorene Scafaria: 'We Wanted to Treat It Like a Sports Movie'

    The star-studded cast of “Hustlers” didn’t just become strippers in the empowering female-helmed blockbuster — they also became athletes. When speaking to “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast, at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month, “Hustlers” director Lorene Scafaria explained the extreme athleticism required of the movie’s leading actresses, who all had [...]

  • Jonathan Van NessLos Angeles Beautycon, Portrait

    Jonathan Van Ness Reveals HIV Diagnosis, Former Drug Addiction

    “Queer Eye’s” Jonathan Van Ness is getting vulnerable in his new memoir “Over the Top.” In a preview of his book with the New York Times, Van Ness opened up about his early struggles with sex and drug addiction as well as his experience with sexual assault, revealing that he was abused by an older [...]

  • 4127_D022_00003_RC(l-r.) Elizabeth McGovern stars as Lady

    Box Office: 'Downton Abbey' Dominating 'Ad Astra,' 'Rambo' With $31 Million Opening

    “Downton Abbey” is heading for a positively brilliant opening weekend after scoring $13.8 million in domestic ticket sales on Friday. If estimates hold, the feature film version of the popular British television show should take home approximately $31 million come Sunday, marking the biggest opening ever for distributor Focus Features and beating previous record holder [...]

  • Gully Boy to represent India in

    'Gully Boy' to Represent India In Oscars Race

    The Film Federation of India has chosen Zoya Akhtar’s “Gully Boy” as its entry in the Academy Awards’ international feature film category. The picture, a coming of age tale about an aspiring rapper in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum premiered at the Berlin film festival in February before opening to a wave of acclaim at home in [...]

  • Lucy-Lost

    Cartoon Forum: 30th Anniversary, Little Giants and New Generations

    TOULOUSE, France –  Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Cartoon Forum wrapped Sept. 19 having showcased the ever-growing strength of European animation. 85 projects were pitched from 24 countries at the co-production forum platform that played host to north of 1,000 investors, distributors and producers – a record number. Falling on French-speaking Belgium – Wallonie-Bruxelles – whose [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content