Netflixable? Can “Maktub” make Israeli gangsters funny?

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Mob mugs are the same the world over. Overdressing, standing around, eating Italian food, bickering about it.

Even in Israel.

“Maktub” is a dark Israeli comedy about sadistic thugs with style, “Master Chef” fans, the foodies Steve and Chuma. They remember their Torah, they expect respect and prompt return on their “investments,” and they know what they like at their favorite Italian eatery. It is “their” restaurant, no matter what the new owner/chef says.

It takes a savage beating to get that point across. Which is where they draw the line.

“Kill him? What are we, animals?”

But “collecting” has suave Steve (Hanan Savyon) feeling unfulfilled. Chuma (Guy Amir), the muscle, is troubled. A fish has fallen from the sky, “a bad sign.”

Every stop it seems, entails a meal. And criticism of that meal. You do NOT want these two at your table. They’ve seen “Goodfellas.” They know ow to make that pause after telling a joke so chilling you might wet your pants.

But surviving a bomb blast as Chuma hellbent on going to the Wailing Wall to give thanks, and has them both feeling they’ve been spared for a reason.  The boss (Abraham Celektar) may not understand. Because, you know, that money they were collecting? Maybe it blew up in the blast, maybe they kept it. 

And maybe those prayers on signed notes tucked in the cracks of the Wailing Wall can be answered. By two mobsters.

“Don’t freak out. We’re here to help.”

Guy needs a raise to save his marriage? Make his boss an offer he can’t refuse, in Hebrew with English subtitles.

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The sexes are separated at The Wailing Wall, so dressing in drag is de rigueur if you’re stealing women’s prayers.

“What? Even the pretty ones have troubles, too!”

Can’t afford a Bar Mitvah for your bullied musician son?  Go to The Wailing Wall, leave a prayer.  Fuggedaboutit. In Hebrew, with English subtitles.

So what we’re dealing with here is “Letters to God,” with punching and threatening and dangling people out high rise windows. “Letters to God” might’ve worked with this twist.

“Maktub” — the title means “letter” in Uzbek — has complications, characters considering fleeing to America, mob entanglements and romantic ones. It starts out plenty tough, goes utterly soft and then rediscovers the bloody for the third act.

And it would be too much for these devout Jews to do something about the militarized Apartheid state they live in where terrorist bombings are a protest of last resort. I suppose.

But I laughed more than once, and grinned at a couple of adorable surprise twists. Definitely Netflixable.

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MPAA Rating: TV-MA

Cast: Guy Amir, Hanan Savyon, Gal Amatai

Credits:Directed by Odez Raz, script by Hanan Savyon, Guy Amir. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:45

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