David Ayer's revenge thriller is mostly just a collection of vulgar threats and violent outbreaks.
Shia LaBeouf can give complex, transporting performances, with rough and nervous outbursts of chaotic antics on the soul. Unfortunately, "The Tax Collector" is not "American Honey". In the boring LA crime saga by writer and director David Ayer about a pair of drug minions trapped in the crosshairs of a major war, LaBeouf stares as a troubled thug named Creeper through a cartoonist and culturally insensitive performance that certainly didn't require that he tattooed his character's name on his chest.
If the two-bit Latino burlesque (more Whiteboy with Latino ambitions, but whatever) was the only problem with The Tax Collector, it would have to work overtime to make up for it. But even if “The Tax Collector” has a firmer purpose as a tight revenge thriller, it is mostly just a collection of vulgar threats and violent outbursts, where substance is exchanged for anger until the loans bring a certain level of peace.
At least it finds some real use in David (Bobby Soto), the centerpiece of the film and sometimes a huge source of conflict. The eponymous tax collectors for a mysterious LA drug dealer named Wizard (Jimmy Smith), David and Creeper race around LA, collecting fees from 43 local gangs and traders to get everyone behind their payments. These guys radiate the smoldering rage of the pulp fiction hitmen Jules and Vincent, but lead a far less exciting life. When rival Mexican drug lord Conejo (Chicago rap artist Jose Conejo Martin) appears in the city with machine guns and refuses to meet their demands, it's a welcome complication.
David has a solid routine, with a palatial home that he shares with his wife Alexis (Cinthya Carmona) and their young children, a supportive uncle (George Lopez, volatile and humorless), and a lovable extended family. At the same time, he struggles with the shadow of his father's legacy hanging over his head and how it could stand in the way of his safer priorities. The figure has shades of Michael Corleone – a motivated young man who is characterized by tradition and has nevertheless settled into a lifestyle that is destined to burn around him. There is potential here if you ignore the different times during the first act in which LaBeouf sticks his head in the frame and juts around.
But “The Tax Collector” tries to solidify into a meaningful scenario as soon as Conejo appears. The actor glowers and stares so violently that his face threatens to collapse. Soto is caught between an offensive buddy and a two-bit villain and can only do so much to give real emotions to his conflicting anti-hero, but he works pretty hard on the only content achievement that is shown.
It only takes some time to see it. The LaBeouf problem in “The Tax Collector” needs further investigation because the drama in its first phase comes so close to overtaking it. In tweets that ran the news, Ayer claimed that Creeper was supposed to be a Jew who adopted the mannerisms of the world around him, but this detail is not exactly the focus; The result is an undeniable racist stereotype. Such an attitude may be against the vague background of the "streets" on which Ayer relies, but it is never more than a confusing chicano cartoon that just as well "ese" drops after every other word. Instead, he just has a boring dialogue with tough guys ("We're going to kill someone today? I have damn nice shoes on!") And fills the rest with bird-like gestures. It's a confusing one-note twist.
The attitude doesn't do him a favor. "The Tax Collector" treats the concept of "streets" as a discreet category of cinematic storytelling and indulges in Salvatore Totino's chic cinematography, while chasing the characters racing through the city into a booming soundtrack, with a lot of "shit that just" has only become real ". Homie ”back and forth. Ayer had a firm grip on this milieu with his convincing police drama "End of Watch" and his script "Training Day" – but the films that he has made since then, from "Fury" to "Suicide Squad", struggle to put a tone between Finding them real danger and playful high style, mainly because they struggle with a self-serious tone that leaves little room for nuances.
Nevertheless, “The Tax Collector” finally comes to a turn that turns into a few exciting passages, as it breaks out into a high-stakes man-on-the-lam-b film with the promise of a serious payout. But even if these developments come with a little tension (and some memorable bloody images), everything collapses in a senseless hail of bullets and blood, tied together with a script that feels like it was written for cutscenes from video games (" I came as a friend and offered you life! Now I come as an enemy and offer you death! "), Not to mention a bizarre ritual slaughter that could have been a result of" Apocalypto ".
With so much mismatched content and just 90 minutes to pull it through, “The Tax Collector” plunges the most exciting showdown into the final minutes. It's a bizarre turn of events that suggests there's no need to waste our time, knowing all the time where that would lead. Maybe that's true. But in The Tax Collector's finale, David actually grapples with questions of his own criminal heritage in a way that could previously have been much more exciting. After all, David is a family man who never asked to play a central role in this story. At the end of "The Tax Collector" it's hard to blame him.
Note: D +
"The Tax Collector" will be available on August 7, 2020 in cinemas and digitally from RLJE Films.