Maktub

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Maktub Movie Poster Image
Israeli mob comedy has violence, cursing.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 100 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Movie suggests that, with a little help from fate, it's possible for people to turn their lives around and make a positive difference in the world. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

No positive role models. 

Violence

A chef who refuses to pay two mobsters protection money is hit with a chair and kicked repeatedly. The two lead characters survive a terrorist attack when a bomb explodes in a restaurant. They hang a man outside the window of a building several stories high. Mafia boss shoots and kills one of his henchmen. Two characters hang from the ceiling by their wrists while being beaten repeatedly with a baseball bat. Talk of someone getting stabbed to death with an icepick. 

Sex

Some kissing. One of the lead characters is having an affair with the ex-wife of the other lead character. 

Language

Regular use of profanity, including "motherf----r" used twice and "f--k" used several times. "S--t," "p---y," "ass," "d--k," "balls," "bastard." "Tranny" is used a few times. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking, including shots of vodka and other unspecified types of liquor. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Maktub is a 2018 Israeli comedy in which two mob henchmen begin to practice random acts of kindness after surviving a terrorist bombing in a restaurant. There are some violent scenes: A chef who refuses to pay the lead characters protection money gets hit with a chair and kicked repeatedly. Two men hang by their wrists from a ceiling while the mob boss beats them with a baseball bat. A man is shot and killed at close range by the mob boss. The mob boss also backs into and hits a pedestrian with his car. Some profanity, including "f--k" and its variations and "p---y" and "tranny." One of the lead characters is having an affair with the ex-wife of the other lead character, and there's some drinking.

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What's the story?

In MAKTUB, Steve (Hanan Savyon) and Chuma (Guy Amir) make their living collecting protection money for the mob. But their lives change after being the only ones to survive a terrorist bombing in the restaurant where they were eating. When they chance upon a note someone left in the cracks of the Wailing Wall, they take it upon themselves to grant the desperate prayers of those leaving notes at the Wall. After helping a man to get a raise and some time off from work to spend more time with his wife and children, Steve and Chuma find that they enjoy helping others. They use some of their money they stole from the restaurant to help a bullied tween have the perfect bar mitzvah, which leads to Steve meeting and becoming attracted to the boy's mother. Meanwhile, Chuma has been assisting Steve's ex-wife (Chen Amsalem) and essentially parenting her young son, who wants nothing more than for his real father to accompany him to a father-son out-of-town soccer trip. Even as they carry out their good deeds, Steve wants to flee to America with the stolen money, as their former boss and his thugs start to track them down. Steve and Chuma must find a way to confront their own mistakes and to change themselves. 

Is it any good?

This Israeli film careens wildly between dark and light comedy. Humor mined from mafia and terrorist violence pairs with the awkward bumbling of the two lead characters trying to do right by others after years of being not-so-nice as mob henchmen. It's a tricky combination to pull off, and yet Maktub (the Arabic term for fate or destiny) on the whole succeeds in using the two sides to illustrate the movie's deeper reflections on destiny and redemption. It also manages to find a fresh angle on mobsters and the "mafia movie" -- with an awareness of the almost played-out tropes of the genre, acknowledging them and finding the humor in these clichés. 

It isn't a perfect movie. The changes in the lead characters feel too abrupt at times, with action and story twists forced in a heavy-handed fashion to make the audience absolutely certain that they understand the theme of the movie. The comedy veers a little too close to the edge of melodrama. Overall, it's an entertaining premise thoroughly explored. It doesn't take much imagination to see Maktub being remade in Hollywood, with any number of the luminaries of the "mob genre" putting their iconic spin on the story. Either way, Maktub is deserving of the international acclaim it has already received. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies centered on characters who are in the mafia. How does Maktub compare to other "mob" movies you've seen? 

  • How was violence used in the movie? Would the movie's overall message be just as effective without the violence? Why or why not? 

  • How do you think this movie would be different if it had been made in Hollywood instead of Israel? 

Movie details

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