- 24 Oct - 30 Oct, 2020
The Tax Collector
- 22 Aug - 28 Aug, 2020
The Tax Collector is a well acted film but almost everything about this mean-streets action thriller feels familiar and a touch self-important, starting with its heralding of the sacred code blasted over a portrait of protagonist David (Bobby Soto) with his beautiful wife and angelic kids.
The conflict of a loyal lieutenant in a criminal organisation who compartmentalises his life into hard-core career thug on one side, devoted paterfamilias on the other – by now seems a standard gangster trope. As soon as that's established, we know exactly where he's going to feel the pain.
While Soto makes a reasonably charismatic lead, the more magnetic character is his sidekick, a twitchy killing machine known as Creeper (Shia LaBeouf). Encased in figure-hugging skinny suits, Mafia-grade sunglasses and just the right amount of bling, LaBeouf goes full Method with his flavourful dialogue and wired physicality. The actor builds a fully formed character that suggests an intriguing backstory, giving off sparks in his every scene.
Regrettably, that's not so much the case with the more generically drawn David and his wife Alexis (Cinthya Carmona), who is perceived as being safely outside the family's criminal operations but has enough of a stake in the business to know what's what.
An old rival of the crime boss returns from Mexico intent on reshaping the street-gang landscape according to his own rules. That hostile interloper, Conejo takes pleasure in reminding David how he's still a glorified errand boy instead of a fully-fledged made man.
Conejo first extends a hand offering David an executive role in his burgeoning empire. When that offer is declined, Conejo sends a brutal message via David's drug dealer Uncle Louis. Conejo warns David saying, "Everything you love is gonna die."
While David prays to Jesus to keep his family and their palatial Spanish-style home safe, Conejo's religious rituals make Santeria look like Sunday school. The movie veers into grotesquerie as he prays at an unholy altar for protection in the oncoming turf war, bathing in the blood of a human sacrifice in a room that looks like Keith Haring threw a Dia de los Muertos party.
Ayer drives the action along efficiently enough to the churning dread of Michael Yezerski's score. But there's too little depth to make you care about the characters and too little imagination at work to make The Tax Collector pay.