Editors ChoiceMovies

The Tax Collector Movie Review

3 Mins read
  • Where does one even begin with a movie that’s so deeply incompetent that it practically defies criticism? Imagine trying to pick out exactly what went wrong in the kitchen after tasting a bite of something so atrocious that it makes your eyes water and your stomach turn. It can be hard to parse the recipe’s failures when you have food poisoning.
This is the position I’m in, asked to determine exactly went wrong with David Ayer’s “The Tax Collector,” and only able to come up with the fact that there’s nothing here that went right. Once you get past the horrifically casual racist stereotypes, non-existent character depth, incoherent plotting, clichéd dialogue, and baffling editing, what’s perhaps most insulting is how numbingly boring the whole affair ended up. If you’re going to make a movie this lazily, at least try to make it fun!
Everything about “The Tax Collector” is depressing. It’s one thing to produce a film that traffics in such Latinx gang stereotypes that even the writers of “Grand Theft Auto” would say it’s a bit two-dimensional, but the least you can do is serve me your clichés with a degree of filmmaking competence. I don’t know if the blinding ineptitude in terms of basic elements like editing and plotting in the second half of this film could be attributed to COVID-19, but that’s the kindest thing I can presume. Ayer has made frustrating films before, but there was at least a level of craft to them that rose above what unfolds here in the last 45 minutes, which alternates between manipulative tropes, brutal violence, and a plot that is impossible to care about. I can’t remember the last time I cared so little about a major character’s death or where a story was going to end.It doesn’t help that Ayer leaves his cast hanging. One thing about Ayer was he seemed to be able to draw good acting work from people like Christian Bale in “Harsh Times,” LaBeouf in “Fury,” and Jake Gyllenhaal in “End of Watch.” Everyone here ranges from bad to atrocious, which means the entirety of the acting flaws has to be laid at Ayer’s feet. LaBeouf has been accused of playing a Latinx character, but he’s more playing a guy like Gary Oldman in “True Romance,” someone who has absorbed the culture. However, this doesn’t justify the silly Latinx heavy impression that results. LaBeouf has been so strong lately in films like “Honey Boy” and “The Peanut Butter Falcon.” This is a terrible waste of his talent.

At one point, I wrote in my notes, “Tough guy shit.” And that’s all this is, an exercise in macho, violent male cinema. It’s tempting to say that no one ever asked what the point was of “The Tax Collector,” but I think it’s even worse than that—they knew there wasn’t a point. It’s always been only about style, like watching someone play a bad video game about Latinx gang culture. The video game would be more fun.
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