The Tax Collector, 2020.
Written and directed by David Ayer.
Starring Bobby Soto, Cinthya Carmona, Shia LeBeouf, George Lopez, Jose Conejo Martin and Cheyenne Rae Hernandez.
David (Bobby Soto) is a tax collector in Los Angeles for the family along with Creeper (Shia LeBeouf). They are feared by rival gangs, levy charges on all the small town competition until an old school rival threaten war on home turf.
Although writer-director David Ayer sets up The Tax Collector quickly it suffers hugely from an excess of style over substance. It wants to be Training Day, retain the atmosphere of Man on Fire and carry the cajones of a blistering central performance similar to Brian de Palma’s Scarface. It also wants to have its cake and eat it by trying to instil some underlying sub-text around family values into the core narrative. For reasons which are difficult to explain it fails on both counts despite the best of intentions. Only Shia LeBeouf escapes a sense of cultural stereotype with his fully wired embodiment of a trigger man. Bobby Soto and the remaining cast are poorly served by a plot which treads water before rushing to a bloody conclusion.
Soto and LeBeouf as David and Creeper respectively cruise around from drop off point to drop off point, exchanging minimal dialogue and relying on a bass heavy soundtrack to convey atmosphere. People are made uneasy, Ayer uses flashback to suggest character depth without success and emotional investment is hard to come by. Stylistically it feels like Tony Scott crossed with Michael Bay minus the latter’s obsession with scantily clad women.
He uses an over saturated colour palette to imply an oppressive heat and blatant Latin American vibe. Composer Michael Yezerski underscores the sporadic action with a soundtrack designed to instil unease, create mood and evoke that particular slice of Los Angeles. Fights are bloody, torture is glimpsed through flashback or via mobile phone, while machetes make an appearance on occasion. Where The Tax Collector perhaps falls down most obviously is in a lack of social commentary which both Training Day, Man on Fire and to a lesser degree Scarface possessed.
On top of that lack of sub-text comes the transparent plot lines which are copybook in construction and barely concealed by cinematic flourishes. This is not so much bad as just extremely disappointing which is why indifference is all you come away with. There was an opportunity to do a better more emotionally resonant story here and the presence of LeBeouf suggests that might have been on the cards at some point.
Performances from the principle players and supporting actors are good but unfortunately they are given little to work with. Even in the bloody climax which is supposed to offer up some sense of redemption it falls flat. A series of telephone platitudes are employed to suggest a resolution for this man left broken, bleeding and without his family. From the beginning this film looks like promising something substantial, glossy and stylish but ends up just being expensively bland.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★