You know those times you want to like something but you just can’t…
New on Blu-Ray, The Tax Collector is a gritty little crime thriller that borrows from a lot of movies that have come before it. It’s not terrible…but remember back on a Friday night when you’d hit your local Blockbuster for a movie? This isn’t the movie you went to the store for, it’s the one you settled on when your first (and possibly second choice) aren’t around.
David (Bobby Soto) and Creeper (Shia LaBeouf) are “tax collectors” for the crime lord Wizard, collecting his cut from the profits of local gangs’ illicit dealings. But when Wizard’s old rival returns to Los Angeles from Mexico, the business is upended, and David finds himself desperate to protect what matters more to him than anything else: his family.
While the first two acts of The Tax Collector are a passably generic crime/action affair it goes off the rails in its final act that can only be described as a piece of fetishist nonsense.
Writer/Director David Ayer who has made a cottage industry in cinema around gangland violence and drug lords; sometimes with very positive results (see Training Day) and sometimes not (see Sabotage) is very clearly leaning towards the latter here with The Tax Collector. While it plays mostly as a somewhat interesting little slice inside the hierarchy of the streets, particularly inside Hispanic street gangs, it goes off the rails at the end with some ultra violent nonsense that is trying to be The Matrix but with mid to low level drug runners.
Ayer who wrote the script actually has some meat on it as it at least tries to give us the dynamics of the relationship between David and Creeper, and while they navigate the politics of the streets we get a compelling glimpse at men born into a life of violence but still maintaining a code of honor and wanting to protect their loved ones. Obviously the crux of a story like this requires that David’s life faces some sort of strife, but Ayer takes it all to such an over the top level of painful spectacle that he forgets to make us care about these characters. It’s not a film about character; it’s a film about posturing that poses about caring about its characters.
We can’t say that we had seen much of lead Bobby Soto before this film, but he does a fine job here as David; a man torn between what a life of crime can get him and the need to keep his loved ones safe. Crime is a means to an end for him, not a lifestyle and that’s why he pairs well with Shia LaBeouf’s Creeper as his ‘heavy’. Creeper is at home in the blood and the violence but is intelligent enough to know he should want more. They make for a compelling duo and I wish we had seen more of the dynamic between these two characters rather than just a focus on representing gang violence on screen…and please don’t ask me what George Lopez was in this, I have no clue.
The picture and sound quality are solid as expected on this Blu-Ray however the only special feature is some deleted scenes.
Ultimately, The Tax Collector isn’t a write off of a film, but it is a disappointing one. Everyone involved it in was more concerned about the gloss of violence surrounding this world rather than the people trying to survive in it.