Posted by: playingthedevil | May 1, 2011

taxi (1998)

so i was going to throw in a fast and furious post since the fast and the furious episode v: fast five, was coming out. but after seagal week and 2 of the five episodes of the fast and furious series left me with nothing but apathy and sh(r)i(f)t to write about, i was dreading having to watch episode 2 fast 2 furious and tokyo drift. my research team, which consists of me, was looking for other car movies to do and all of a sudden realized that i own a copy of the luc besson produced taxi. it was later loosely remade into taxi starring one time actor/current talk show host jimmy fallon and queen latifah.  the car theme wouldn’t have worked that well anyway since the later fast and furious episodes focus more on the heist aspect than actual racing.

but how’s this for a car movie plot: a car enthusiast, who somewhat disregards the law, teams up with a cop to catch R.B.G., the real bad guys. whom as we all know, are the non-protagonists who are the real bad guys in action movies, not the anti-hero bad guys in said action movies. fast cars sequences ensued.

the film opens with a marseilles, france, europe pizza delivery guy on a scooter going really fast set to the same song from pulp fiction, a cover of misirlou. i don’t know what it is but it kind of sets the light hearted comedic tone of the movie. this french dissel character (who also have darker skin but not that ethinic, much like vin dissel therefore acceptable in hollywood as leading man) , is so legendary that the pizza place owner throws a party for him for quitting the pizza delivery job for a new job as a cab driver. viva la vin is so smooth that i love the line when the love interest/oscar winner marion cotillard(pre-fanboy-ized by pretenious psuedo-artsy/intelligent overhyped summer blockbusters) kisses him on the cheek at the retirement party, he says “did you kiss me or did your lips slip?”

in what would have been the i.o.a.s.: the inconsequential opening action sequence, we see his tricks while driving a desperate passenger to the airport. it’s got a 25 minute time limit but he gets there in 15, ignoring the speed limit.

but before that, his first fare is actually the mother of the cop character(viva la walker), who tells people that her son works for ibm, so they won’t bother them with fixing tickets. the cop character, when we first see him, fails the driving test for the 8th time in a rather unconvincing manner. he also has a crush on a fellow female officer who seems to be modeled on cynthia rothrock.  the camera angle and the way she was shot also let us know that she’s supposed to be hot.  she’s also in the denis rodman movie simon sez.

the r.b.g. in the movie is a group of german robbers. at first it seems like they are reenacting scenes from heat. but the movie’s smarter than that. it’s actually pretty ingenious the way they take the money. the fact that they are german leads to another great line in the movie, by the politically incorrect police chief(dennis, ahem, france haha), who must catches the german robbers because “we won’t let the germans invade our country again.” he also comes up with the names of each operations to catch the germans, operation cobra, and operation zen.

inevitably, the driving-impaired cop teams up with the former pizza delivery gearhead to take down the german villains.  though the climax action sequence at first seem long(watching someone drive is about as exciting on film as watching someone on the computer), the payoff of how they catch the german bad guys is worth waiting for.

before i forget, taxi is first and foremost a buddy cop action comedy. it’s a lighthearted ride. unlike its hollywood counterparts, it focuses mainly on the two characters, instead of having the action scenes be the money shots. action fans may be disappointed with the lack of wall to wall action and amazing car scenes. but after the two morose fast and furious psuedo-gritty self-serious movies, it feels like a breath of fresh air. in fact, the momma’s boy cop and the somewhat criminal driver is probably a more honest portrayals than anything fast and/or furious. with the two characters properly set up, the filmmakers gave themselves a clearer path to a good movie. the moment when the two are on a stakeout and discuss the cop’s mom’s sandwich works extremely well because of what was set up prior to that point. i also love the fact that the cop character got an idea to catch the r.b.g. from tv.

the two characters have great chemistry, with way less macho posturing of the fast and furious movies. that, and they are not in love with each other like riddick and walker are. though predictable, the movie kinda reinvigorates the buddy action formula. it also feels less formulaic since there’s no conventional hookups. no one’s hooking up with anyone’s sister. the mother and girlfriend character are takes place before the movie begins. yes, sometimes movie characters have lives before the movie. the action scenes may not have been as accomplished as hollywood’s, but they kind of works in a light comedy. some of the early action scenes and the buddy action comedy stuff actually remind me of the kind of movies that hong kong movies used to do.

much like the fast & furious and the transporter series, taxi has spawned 3 sequels and a remake(and there’s a stallone cameo in taxi 3, hence the cobra connection(?)). taxi is kind of like district b 13, except with cars instead of human. it’s not quite as amazing as district b 13. as far as luc besson’s hong kong action movie tributes go, it’s definitely in the top five. too bad it’s not available on dvd or netflix. somehow his inferior/stiffer productions like taken, the messenger, kiss of the dragon, and unleashed all got proper release here while taxi was barely released(imdb said it was released in theatres here in 1998 but i have no memory of it being actually in theatres). seems like the only thing they needed to do for the remake was to pump up the action scenes and not change anything else. of course, that didn’t happen. and unlike all those movies, it stays smartly under 90 minutes, which is all the time a b action movie needs.

too bad you probably won’t get to see it. sucks to be you. unless i actually let you borrow it.





the fast and the furious: 2.5/5 nos
fast & furious: 2/4 nos
taxi (1998): 4/5 freedom fries

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