Cop drama ‘Line in the Sand’ is worth crossing

The prolific photographer began his career in the 1970s in print journalism, specializing in fashion, however, his true calling came with his discovery of the performing arts.

THE CAST of ‘Line in the Sand.’  (photo credit: RAN MENDELSON/COURTESY OF KESHET/HBO)
THE CAST of ‘Line in the Sand.’
It’s one of the oldest stories in drama: An honest cop returns to his hometown to find it has been taken over by a crime gang, and he has to fight the bad guys alone. Variations on this theme have been done too many times to count, in such classics as High Noon, and now there’s an Israeli version in the new television series Line in the Sand, from Keshet.
The first two episodes premiered on Channel 12 and can be seen via the Mako website, and the third will be shown on February 1. It stars Tsahi Halevi, who is best known for Fauda but who has also appeared in a number of other successful movies and series, including Mossad 101 and The Grave. He plays Alon, a successful Tel Aviv detective who returns with his wife and daughter to the city where he grew up, Nahariya. I can’t remember seeing any other drama that took place there and the filmmakers make the most of the natural beauty of the beachfront setting.
But something is rotten in this lovely-looking town. Honest merchants live in fear of a gang of thugs who control the place, throwing grenades into fruit stands and terrorizing anyone who crosses them. The gang is run by an eerily poker-faced 25-year-old, Maor Ezra (Shlomi Yifrach), who has been getting away with murder since he was a teen. It’s a bit incredible that Alon does not seem to realize what he is getting into and is amazed when, as a colleague takes him around the city on his first day on the job, he sees police allowing a suspect to flee. Once he does realize the extent of the crime and corruption, he is determined to fight, even as his fellow cops tell him not to bother.
This series, which contrasts the looming menace of the evil gang with the sun-soaked setting nicely, has come along at a peculiarly appropriate moment, when the headlines are full of stories about the police failing to enforce lockdown laws strictly in the ultra-Orthodox community, and every broadcast is filled with images of outnumbered police threatened by lawless gangs. At the end of the groovy credit sequence for the show, which features decades-old newsreel footage of Nahariya, a parked car is shown engulfed in flames, eerily similar to the image of a burning bus that was front and center in the news over the past few days.
After Alon is warned by his commander not to take any action against the gang, he ignores the order and breaks up an illegal gambling parlor. Things quickly get out of control and the scenes where Alon investigates crime and faces off against the gang are the best. Of course, Alon has a backstory, which is weaker than the action scenes. He has taken a Hebrew last name, Shenhav, and discarded his Mizrahi birth name, Sharabi, in an attempt to fit in at his previous posting in Tel Aviv. Dreaming of studying abroad, he sees the new job as just a stepping stone at first. But being back in Nahariya draws him again into his relationship with his tough-guy father and brings him into contact with his conveniently single high-school sweetheart, all of which is as familiar as the main theme of the show but not as gripping.
The series features many fine actors from Israel’s deep bench of screen talent, including Eli Finish, Shani Cohen, Maor Schwitzer and Shiri Maimon. The show features Halevi in his comfort zone, since many of his past roles have involved 
action and crime, and he proves himself once again to be a compelling TV star.
It’s pretty clear that the series is going to get more violent as it goes on and we can tell before Alon does that some of those who seem to be supporting him in his fight are not as trustworthy as he believes them to be. But even though Alon’s naivety strains credulity at times, Line in the Sand is an entertaining show about a real problem, and may well be the next Israeli show to be exported or remade abroad.