Tough, smart and resourceful women are at the center of Queens, an Israeli television series starting on September 19 on the MHZ streaming platform.
They’re called upon to protect the family turf after Yaakov Malka, an underworld boss of Sephardi origin, is bumped off, along with his son and several associates, while partying aboard his yacht off the coast of Tel Aviv.
Ido, Malka’s young and impressionable grandson, witnesses the assassination, placing him in immediate danger. Dori (Rita Yahan-Farouz), his grandmother and grieving widow, arranges to have him smuggled out of the city.
Guy (Roy Miller), who was like a son to the fallen gangster, promises to take care of the Malkas, but his sincerity seems questionable. He hooks up with Sapri (Lili Kornowski), an almost equally shady figure.
Dori and her two grown daughters, Aliza (Dana Ivgy) and Na’ama (Mali Levi), must fend for themselves in the wake of Yaakov Malka’s sudden death. They hunger for revenge and seek to maintain and retain Malka’s criminal empire.
The strong and unambiguous storyline is one of the virtues of Queens, which is hardboiled yet sentimental. The accomplished cast adds to its luster, with Yahan-Farouz and Ivgy in particular turning in superior performances.
The villain appears to be Hillel Kadosh, who was Malka’s chief rival. Dori devises a plot to kill him. “No smiles until Kadosh dies,” she decrees. But talk is cheap. It takes more than rhetoric and bluster to achieve this objective, as Dori discovers.
She turns to Albert (Igal Naor), a close family friend, to deal with Kadosh. Albert is eminently trustworthy. He took a fall for Malka and languished in prison for 15 years instead of him. Soon enough, Albert hatches a scheme to hurt Kadosh.
At the end of the day, Dori relies heavily on Aliza, whom she considers the smartest person in the Malka clan, to take care of business. She scores points by finding one of her father’s notebooks, which contains a list of still unpaid loans, and by recruiting a bunch of African hooligans to join the Malka team.
Aliza rarely loses sight of the fact that she’s in dangerous terrain. At one point, she is beaten by a hoodlum on a motorcycle. Her Arab friend, Hamudi (Adiv Sfadi), wreaks vengeance on the assailant. Aliza’s relationship with Hamudi is platonic, but it could become romantic.
Cross religious romances are fairly rare in Israel, but in this instance the sparks are let loose.