In a signature piece of filmmaking from France’s go-to director for high concept spills and thrills, Luc Besson writes yet another love-letter to his country’s culture, people and cities. Besson is a master at delivering relatively standard storylines with super cool twists and making the audience buy into them. Taxi, having now spawned three sequels and a typically reprehensible US remake, is among the most successful film franchises to have emerged from France. Never one to let plot-holes and leaps in logic get in the way of explosions, laughs and action, Besson serves up plenty of it all in Taxi.
We meet Daniel on a high-speed moped ride through the sun-kissed streets of the southern French city of Marseille, all boulevards and wide roads. Arriving back at the pizza-delivery depot in yet another record time signifies the end of his time there. To celebrate his retirement, he receives a drive past the pizza-delivery masses and their enemies – the police. An unexpected kiss from the lovely Lilly look like it’s going to be the perfect end to his big day, but he’s got to get his taxi license!
After dropping off his first customer, the very lovely Camille, Daniel gets a panicky businessman to the airport in record, stomach-turning time, with his robotically transforming taxi. At the same time, on the other side of the city, Emilien is failing yet another driving test in spectacular style.
Emilien’s police unit stake out and fail, again, to catch a group of German bank robbers, The Mercedes Gang. Both Emilien’s boss and his super-model colleague Petra need impressing and, when he is picked up and accelerated past his colleagues at 120mph by Daniel, he spies an opportunity. To save his license, Daniel reluctantly agrees to help Emilien catch The Mercedes Gang.
The race against time, against expectation, and against the Germans is on…
Taxi is all about the action and, for that reason, there isn’t an enormous amount besides worth recommending. This doesn’t actually matter, though, because the action is great! From the word go, we are an inch from the floor, sparks flying off of the underside of Daniel’s moped, then, with a linking scene with the woefully underused Marion Cotillard crowbarred in, we are off with the car. This is what this film is really for, and Besson must’ve known this all along. Every piece of dialogue and non-car action is designed to get the audience to the next car chase with as little distraction from people as possible.
The film is framed perfectly to be a backdrop for an all-out maniac car-chase experience.
Daniel and Emilien are both very likeable characters, but they’ve got not real dialogue or development to do in this film. One is a wise-cracking street kid, the other a straight-laced underachiever (who nevertheless has managed to become a Chief Inspector), and they’re put together to justify the action. The three female characters are here for no reason at all other than to, one, bring Daniel and Emilien together; two, try to have sex with Daniel; and three, be totally out of Emilien’s league. This isn’t the point, though; the car is the real star here, and why not when it’s as frankly cool and impressive as this. The Peugot is a standard affair until Daniel wants to get a fare to their destination quickly. Then the film-star is allowed some decent screen time to itself, and tears up both the screen and the tarmac – and this is why we’re here.
The film is framed perfectly to be a backdrop for an all-out maniac car-chase experience. The skies are azure blue, the buildings are tall, white and picked out with boulangeries and pâtisseries but, more importantly, nearly every road has at least three lanes and spaced out traffic. Daniel’s car is brilliant white and the Mercedes are lipstick red – they’re what is really important and, when we get going along with them, the film is excellent. It’s the kind of thing Hollywood did brilliantly in the 1960s, but Besson has elevated it to another level, albeit one-dimensionally.
Besson films are often a mix of what to take seriously and what to leave aside and pretend doesn’t matter. The story is basic, but gets the viewer from A to B without any real confusion, because the plot isn’t usually the point. Instead, it’s a device to get as much in the way of speed, stunts and spectacular into the 86mins as possible. This film isn’t a genre-changer, but it does move the bar right up high.
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