Cinema Review: The Tax Collector | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Tax Collector

Studio: RLJE Films
Directed by David Ayer

Aug 05, 2020 Web Exclusive
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The Tax Collector is director David Ayer’s return to the mean streets of Los Angeles, where he typically feels most comfortable as a director. Between his early work like Harsh Times and Street Kings to End of Watch, Ayer has always been interested in the good versus bad narrative as it unfolds on the sweaty pavement of L.A. His mold feels a bit tired this time around, failing to create much tension or intrigue with The Tax Collector.

Ayer has taken a few hits as a director as he entered big budget filmmaking. Suicide Squad, despite making almost $750 million worldwide, wasn’t well-received by critics or audiences and Bright, which had its debut on Netflix, was just as derided. Ayer has been public about his experience on Suicide Squad and how his vision might not be what made it to screen. That’s the downfall of making a movie by committee, as these superhero properties go.

The Tax Collector feels like Ayer’s film from start-to-finish, which makes it all that more disappointing. The dreadfully dull tale about a “tax collector” roaming the streets of L.A. fits into the director’s typical milieu but feels like a rehashed story he has done before.

David (Bobby Soto) is a family man, who will do anything to provide and care for his wife Alexis (Cinthya Carmona) and their children. When he is not on dad and husband duty at home, he is out with his friend Creeper (Shia LaBeouf), shaking people down – by any means necessary – for money owed. Creeper is a bit more cavalier about their business. “Are we killing anyone today,” he asks David. “I’ve got nice shoes on.” This is all in a day’s work for Creeper. It’s clear David is a bit apprehensive being in this business and is looking for a way out. Things get complicated when his boss’ rivals show up and start making threats against his family.

Soto’s performance as David feels like the prototype for the “one last job” narrative, which we have seen over and over in movies before. When LaBeouf shows up on screen, dressed in a silver three-piece suit, we are meant to sit up straight and take notice. Someone says to Creeper, “I heard you were the devil.” Creeper deadpans back, “I might be.” The movie doesn’t dive into any kind of interesting character work, which would suggest the audience is supposed to fear Creeper. We know he’s unhinged but LaBeouf feels like an after thought at times. It’s a shame because the actor had one of the best years of his career last year with his deeply personal Honey Boy and the charming The Peanut Butter Falcon.

Ayer’s characters wallow in stereotypes and there’s no work to elevate the movie with a fully developed relationship between David and Creeper. What made Ayer’s End of Watch so good is the central relationship between the officers played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. The bond they shared created an emotional experience amidst the action, something the entirely mechanical The Tax Collector is missing.

Author rating: 3/10

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Average reader rating: 1/10


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