Watch Dan Hart’s review on YouTube here.
This will not surprise you in the slightest but I am fairly convinced I have not seen an Israeli film before. According to IMDb, Maktub is the biggest Israeli blockbuster since 1986, so that came with some heightened expectation. Maktub has had scattered releases but then Netflix, who appear to be infiltrating every market possible, labelled it.
So Netflix film Maktub is one with a clear attempt to accentuate the importance of upstanding deeds. Steve (Hanan Savyon) and Chuma (Guy Amir) are your average criminals, working for a gang lord, roaming restaurants and making sure their victims keep up with their debts. The opening of the movie shows the duo testing out a new menu at a restaurant with the apprehensive owner attempting to maintain a civilised conversation. Of course, he doesn’t. The non-specific turning point comes when Steve and Chuma get caught up in a random terrorist attack, which they miraculously survive. Due to the fact that they believe it was fate, they detail a fabricated story to their boss that the case of money at the restaurant went missing and use the cash to try and play out good, ambitious deeds.
On paper, the opening premise gives the reality that the two leading men come across as threatening in some form of dark comedy, but that’s not the case. Maktub fails to propel the characters as a menacing force of nature who just so happen to suffer from a near-death experiencing that results in a change of heart. Failure to provide impact does not bring down the rest of the movie, which is tentatively engaging and funny, in parts.
Ultimately, Netflix film Maktub ponders the idea that unselfish deeds can be delivered without the expectation of anything in return, which is entirely enticing when you are watching two “bad” criminals soften their approach. Maktub, with ease, tackles issues around relationships and parenthood as emotionally engaging plot devices. Maktub does not deliver groundbreaking storytelling but director Oded Raz has kept the pace quite consistent throughout, without over dramatising matters. For instance, one storyline in particular, though seemingly small and significant, managed to move me by the time the credits rolled, which is pretty much a subplot that stays there creeping under the overall story.
The only downside is that you leave Maktub wishing it had depth. The characters, although funny and engaging, are not really cared about. The movie relies on the fact that these characters are now ex-criminals, so you care more about the supporting characters that need their help, which I suppose is a warranted approach. There is one character in particular who is introduced early on; a young boy who is hopeful that his father will return one day to watch him play football – this is quickly swept under the carpet for it to keep returning at random moments in the film.
Maktub is worth the patience. The comedy is well timed but it lacks special input from the leading characters, who provide okay performances but lack the depth to elevate this movie to a great picture.