The Tax Collector Movie Review

The Tax Collector Movie Review
"The Tax Collector," writer/director David Ayer's latest LA crime drama, is a gruesome and unsatisfying affair. It initially shows a glimmer of promise as the action follows David (Bobby Soto, "The Quarry"), the collector for a local crime lord, from loving homelife to cruising the streets with sidekick/enforcer Creeper (Shia LaBeouf, "The Peanut Butter Falcon"). Alas, as we hit the end of the first act, the film quickly collapses into a series of hyper-violent and over the top sequences that rarely let up until the credits roll. And it's not the sort of whirlwind pacing that is thrilling and breathless and generally regarded as good; instead, it's jumbled and relentless while still managing to deploy a few bafflingly obvious plot turns.
The central premise of "The Tax Collector" is that David and Creeper roam Los Angeles to collect tithes from a multitude of the city's most violent gangs, on behalf of the apparently imprisoned Wizard (Jimmy Smits, "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"). The origin of this arrangement is never quite explained, nor is the backstory of how David ended up in this collector position. It is suggested that he has been born into it, as the son of a criminal of some fearsome repute, but this is never made clear. David quickly demonstrates that he's not the murderous monster you might expect. One early act of mercy shows that he does care about family, while another plainly introduces us to "Chekhov's Rival Gang Member." "The Tax Collector" does at least try to humanize its anti-hero, even though he is clearly not a good guy. Unfortunately, soon after "I am clearly evil" villain Conejo (Jose Martin) appears with hostile takeover in mind, things go right off the rails. Much blood - both CGI and squib - is spilled as David tries to fight back, then flee, then fight back again.

"The Tax Collector" can't seem to locate its narrative logic or tone for the balance of the runtime. It is just a series of escalating sequences of violence and brutality and maybe reincarnation? The payoff to "Chekov's Rival Gang Member" later in the story is absurd, while an ACTUAL "Chekov's Gun" never really sees any payoff at all. Most frustratingly, all the open warfare hides the most compelling conflict of the film's story: the one between David and his place in this world. Rather, it only appears directly in the denouement. Like I said, this one's off the rails.

The performances on display here vary widely. Soto's David does well as the anti-hero, striking a balance between a picturesque home life and the gritty work done to support that lifestyle. The dialogue he's given is far from perfect, but Soto delivers with earnestness and a good dose of charisma. LaBeouf's Creeper, on the other hand, is a messy jumble of leftover Tarantino dialogue wrapped in menacing swagger. There is also the strangeness of wondering if this qualifies as a "brownface" performance. (The debate apparently reached the point where Ayer had to take to Twitter to clarify.) Setting that aside, Creeper's character arc is confounding. He's built up as a constant threat, with many bloody establishing shots and power tool intimidations to drive home the point. But when it's time to exercise his very particular set of skills, he's sidelined entirely. It's possible that this is intended to confound viewer expectations for the character - but I was ultimately disappointed. I must admit, I was rather looking forward to LaBeouf getting to make good on the badass persona. Also, there was some amusing commentary about the tattoos LaBeouf got on his chest for the film, only to never take off his shirt.

The main villain, Conejo, is cartoonishly over-the-top evil, but that overreach feels rooted in the writing rather than the performance. (A "ritual sacrifice" is a bit of a dead giveaway that this character is swinging for the crazy fences.) But there were a few moments where the performance reminded me of some of Danny Trejo's onscreen heavies; so time will tell if Martin can capitalize on his presence with some better material. David's wife Alexis (Cinthya Carmona, "A Dark Foe") is granted precious little agency, mainly existing to serve as the stakes in the battle between "evil" and "less-evils," so Carmona is given little to do but look concerned. Everyone else has relatively brief screen time, so the other notable names - Smits' Wizard (seen mostly just by phone) and George Lopez as David's Uncle Louis - don't have enough time to really make much impact.

Ayer both wrote and directed "The Tax Collector," so it's hard to parse precisely where things truly got lost; but I suspect that it's more in the script that the execution, despite the aforementioned issues with pacing. The film is shot decently - we're not bathed in another clichéd, over-exposed Los Angeles - and the overall feel and style is sharp. But the film is just all over the place otherwise, and Ayer has ownership of that.

Overall, "The Tax Collector" initially appears to have the makings of a good pulpy gangster drama. But it disappoints due to a messy script, and ideas that aren't novel. Toss in performances built on top of that script, and you have 95 minutes that simultaneously go everywhere and yet nowhere. It might have appeal for those who crave violence and warfare among middle management in the LA gang culture, but it's a pass for just about everyone else.

"The Tax Collector" will be released on DVD, Blu-ray, and UHD/Blu-ray SteelBook on October 6, and is currently available via On Demand and digital streaming.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
The Tax Collector Movie Review The Tax Collector Movie Review Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Sunday, September 13, 2020 Rating: 5

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