Lior Raz can carry any scene with just his green eyes; his brooding, menacing snarl; and his angry resting face, which precedes opening a can of beatdown on his enemies.
By Alan Zeitlin, JNS
Revenge is a dish best served Israeli.
That’s especially true if you’re a fan of “Fauda,” starring Lior Raz, created and written by Raz and journalist Avi Issacharoff. The pair proves to be more than a one-hit wonder with the newly released action thriller “Hit & Run,” which is likely the best Netflix show you’ll see this year.
Raz stars as Segev Azulai, an Israeli tour guide with a beautiful wife, Danielle (Kaelen Ohm), who says she’s excited to head from Israel to New York City to audition for a dance group, even though she doubts she’ll be chosen. But when she’s brutally hit by a car and dies before she even gets to the airport, Segev flies to New York to investigate if there was foul play, or at least confront the two men who did not stop and help his wife.
Raz can carry any scene with just his green eyes; his brooding, menacing snarl; and his angry resting face, which precedes opening a can of beatdown on his enemies. If the name Azulai rings a bell, it’s because in real life, in 1990, Iris Azulai was the girlfriend of a 19-year-old Raz, who was stabbed and killed by a Palestinian terrorist.
Fans of “Fauda” will love “Hit & Run,” despite a lesser amount of violence. Don’t worry. There is still an explosion, some shootings and a vicious fight scene in a Brooklyn bathroom. Raz has great chemistry with Gal Toren (who you may recognize as the husband of Ayelet Zurer in Apple +’s “Losing Alice”), the good friend and sidekick named Ron. They come to rely on each other when things get hairy and have served both in the Israeli army and as mercenaries in Mexico. There is a touching scene when Ron rides the school bus with his 10-year-old son, and Segev gets to show a comedic side when he sings “What Is Love?” along with the radio to make his teenage daughter Ella laugh as they ride in the car together. There’s another good aside when Segev tells Ron he’s not a good Jew for being unfamiliar with the Brooklyn Museum—museums, in general, really. Because you get to see both characters’ vulnerabilities, their power is all the more appreciated.
It goes without saying that nobody can be trusted and any situation that seems safe can become treacherous in a heartbeat.
One of the breakout stars of the show is Sanaa Lathan (she had a lead role in the Showtime series “The Affair”), who plays Naomi Hicks, a New York magazine reporter writing about Danielle’s death and strange associations between the Mossad and CIA. In the ninth and final episode, a secret about her identity is revealed shortly before a murder that you will not see coming. The writing is masterful as we keep guessing where allegiances lie, what secrets will be uncovered next and when will something be a red herring, or a character will go splat and die. Shot in Israel—mainly, Tel Aviv and Jaffa—and New York City, the series in English with as well as Hebrew, and at times, of course, with English subtitles.
Moran Rosenblatt makes her mark as Tali, Segev’s cousin who is willing to risk her job as a policewoman to break into a computer to try to identify a man who tries to kill Segev. Her love interest is none other than the hunky Aviv Alush, who fans know from the Israeli series “Baker and the Beauty,” available on Amazon Prime. He plays Omer, and offers to rub her feet and then does much more than that.
It goes without saying that nobody can be trusted and any situation that seems safe can become treacherous in a heartbeat. In pursuit of the truth, many bad guys are in Segev’s way. But it’s like his wife’s love pushed a calm button on him, and with her death, that button has ceased to exist.
‘A gimmick, if used well, is not really a gimmick’
You will be on the edge of your seat and not want to want to eat anything heavy when watching this series made of nine episodes. The only criticism is I would have liked to have seen more dance scenes, a few minutes more of the courtship between Segev and Danielle, and even more humorous lines for Raz, who shows he has great comedic timing. The show’s one crime is it gives just a few minutes of screen time to Michael Aronov, who plays Isaac, a gut-busting funny character Segev owes a debt to. The actor deserves his own series based on the character. It would have also been a special touch to see Raz kill some bad guys in a kosher restaurant in New York (maybe Mendy’s) as an homage to “The Godfather,” when Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone shot two enemies to death in a Bronx Italian restaurant.
Igal Naor is fearsome as a Mossad man you would not want to mess with and you can’t help, but laugh when he praises lo mein that he says you can’t get in Israel. Gregg Henry also is extremely compelling as Martin Wexler, a man who makes Segev an offer he’s not sure he can refuse. It’s not so easy to get to Disneyland right now, but “Hit & Run” is a wild ride that provides an adrenaline rush you’ve likely been craving.
Ohm sparkles on the screen but we don’t really get to see the power of her acting until flashbacks in the later episodes.
As someone who has ridden the New York City subway for 15 years and seeing people pretending to be blind, dancing, rapping, singing, playing every musical instrument known to man, eating a pastrami sandwich while playing the accordion, talking to themselves, playing with an and even eating their own hair, there were missed opportunities where Raz could have interacted with New Yorkers in such a hilarious way that you would have fallen out of your seat. At the very least, they have to write in a scene where Raz tackles the Naked Cowboy or is helped by him in Times Square, or beats someone with a bat at Yankee Stadium.
Some will surely complain about the way the show ends, but I liked it. A gimmick, if used well, is not really a gimmick. Some desire a specific resolution or character evolution, but writers are chiefly tasked to script a show that will entertain.
So kudos to them. Bet the ranch that there will be a second and third season of this show!