David Cuevas and his psychotic buddy Creeper works as local enforcers for a jailed ganglord called “The Wizard”. Ruling the gangs of LA with the wizard’s similar taste for bloody retribution, late payment on so-called “loyalty taxes” will not be tolerated. However, when a new player called “Conejo” enters the frame, everything begins to change. Torn between the family man he is at home and the murderous thug he is required to be on the streets, David must decide quickly what kind of man fate wants him to be.
…Lost in its own pretensions and gangland gutter-speak, this is one suicide squad where nobody makes it home.
Suicide Squad director David Ayer’s latest foray latest urban warfare, The Tax Collector, sees him return to the LA streets where his previous films Training Day and End of Watch so impressed audiences years before. Gritty and unapologetically grimy, both of the aforementioned movies benefitted from similarly mesmeric and talismanic performances from Denzel Washington and Jake Gyllenhaal respectively. Here Ayer instead straps on a head-shaved, silver-suited Shia LaBoeuf and a much more mundane Bobby Soto in his latest story of a turf war gone awry. And yet whilst Shia LaBeouf impresses with a snappy economy of movement that belies the gossamer-thin rage that is only ever an eye twitch away, Bobby Soto drowns in the spotlight of the lead role. Whereas Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast turned the gangland drama upside down with its switched casting of Gandhi‘s Ben Kingsley as sociopathic Don Logan, the same cannot be said here.
Starting with a series of brutal scenes to establish its lead characters, it seems that LaBoeuf will eventually step into the lead role. Interestingly counterpointing the quiet desires of sociopathic Creeper, who covets the emotional security that his partner has, sadly director David Ayer leaves his ‘A’ game in the car. Intent instead on presenting all the hombres as bad, all the woman as voluptuous, drowning any later dialogue with music, only LaBeouf gets to a swathe through the human humidity.
In what amounts to a surprisingly down-the-line tale of territorial ambition, The Tax Collector instead has to rely on gore to make its point. Left unsure as to whether either its characters or its director have spent too much time watching Al Pacino’s Scarface, fortunately, the straight-to-video lighting of the second and third acts, masks out most of the blood. Devoid of any genuine twists or suspense, writer/director David Ayer’s latest quickly runs out of side streets to go down in what becomes a drive-by-shooting that wanted to be a completed film.
In end, The Tax Collector becomes a brutishly, disappointing ride-along without a requisite map to the stars. Lost in its own pretensions and gangland gutter-speak, this is one suicide squad where nobody makes it home.