Releasing to mixed reviews, with more leaning towards the negative than positive, the latest film from writer/director David Ayer pairs the Hollywood enigma Shia LeBeouf on screen with up-and-comer Bobby Soto. While the film may lack in compelling narrative to some, it should be undeniable that LeBeouf and Soto aren’t the problem here. So committed to his craft, LeBeouf went as far as tattooing his entire chest for in preparation for his role of Creeper in the film. With the pair acting their asses off from start to finish, some great tough guy style, and some fantastic, fun scenes throughout the film, it’s not hard to see why the audience reviews are far more positive than the critical response here. It may not be one of the best films of all time or even of the year, but The Tax Collector is a fun and worthwhile addition to any genre film fan’s collection.
This is the 3rd in a series of critically panned, yet generally entertaining films from Ayer. While Suicide Squad and Bright are fantastical and higher concept, Ayer instead takes the mean-mugging gangster approach not-too-dissimilar in tone from his 2005 Christian Bale joint, Harsh Times. The film really focuses on Soto’s David, with him being the only fully drawn character in the film – even LeBeouf’s Creeper, who has the second most screen time in the film, is extremely one-dimensional. This criticism is noted in many reviews far and wide and it rings true. However, in a film about one man’s character arc, this really doesn’t hurt the overall storytelling too much. It’s perhaps a disappointment for critics watching a film written by a seasoned screenwriter with some true gems under his belt, but it feels like it could also be quite deliberate, as it truly helps to highlight the depth of David.
If you’re a fan of this type of crime drama/action/thriller genre mashup, it’s well worth your while. As noted at the start, the performances are strong. Soto shows true emotional depth, juxtaposing his family life with his job as a “tax collector” for a crime syndicate. LeBeouf’s character is far less complex, perhaps even a stereotype – but his tough guy routine works and he’s believable as a true psychopath who has only lived this long on sheer grit. Coupled with how good the film looks and sounds, the pair make for a strong leading duo of an enjoyable gangster film with good tension and a few truly compelling and interesting scenes, including some great shootouts and some solid action. Throw in a little black magic, even more mean mugging, and the film really hits in its final third.
As far as the 4k release goes, the sound mix and 4K picture on this are fantastic, while the special features are a bit lacking. The strong look and sound of the release make up for the fact that there aren’t a ton of features. Great box art puts the accent on the package, as well.
The long and short of it, this one is recommended for fans of Ayer, LeBeouf, and modern gangster films. The action is good, the tension is strong, and the overall presentation is exactly the type of movie that you expect it would and should be. The 4k Steelbook presents the film in its best format, but the Blu-ray (also included in the 4k package) also looks and sounds great.
While this one may not have dug Ayer out of his critical rut, it remains another well made genre film that audiences generally appreciate and enjoy. And, if I’m Ayer, it’s what audiences think that I’d tend to care more about.