Sunday, June 6, 2010

Taxi (1998)

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Back of DVD:

Former pizza delivery guy Daniel is speed crazy. Embarking on a new career as a taxi driver, his specially modified car is so fast even police radar can't spot him!

When he unwittingly gives a high-speed ride to police officer Emilien, he is forced to accept a deal to keep his license: a stint as Emilien's personal police car driver. Now on the other side of the law, Daniel becomes the unlikely mastermind behind an investigation into a gang of German bank robbers.

Aided by his girlfriend, Emilien's mother and a whole squad of pizza delivery boys Daniel and Emilien join forces with hilarious consequences to foil the robbers on foot, on scooters, and of course in TAXIs.

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Movie Review:

Luc Besson writes and produces great movies, not B-movies. The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita, Leon the Professional - all his. He didn't direct this (he doesn't actually have many directions under his belt), but he did write it and gets the coveted 'presented by' title that Quentin Tarantino slaps on half the movies out there. It has similarities to his other stuff, like Banlieue 13 (District 13) and The Transporter series in that it is fast paced and prides itself on using the French urban landscapes to full effect. It also has the usual quirky trendy-French-cafe soundtrack that Besson uses so well.

Taxi is about a former pizza delivery driver Daniel (Sammy Naceri) that chucks it all in to go work for himself as a cab driver. On the first day that he gets his licence he lands a customer that is in an urgent hurry to get to the airport. If he makes it in time for the flight, the reward will be great. After telling his customer to buckle his seatbelt, Daniel flicks down an array of switches from his dash and proceeds to convert his car, James Bond style, into a racer. The car grows a rear wing, lowers closer to the ground and speeds off through the streets, beginning one of the first awesome car race/chase scenes in the movie. Dodging traffic at super speeds Daniel gets his customer to the airport who upon exiting the cab throws up everywhere. Job well done, and off home to girlfriend Lilly (played by the stunning Marion Cotillard, who was recently in Public Enemies) who re-appears a few times and acts as Daniel's calming influence.

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A cop trying to prove his worth, Emilien (Frederic Diefenthal), is on a stakeout. He and his team know a bank robbery is about to take place and they patiently wait for the suspects to make their move. At the same time the Minister arrives with his entourage. The robbers flee the bank and open fire on the cops who retaliate, but the Minister's people take this as an attack on him and also open fire - on the cops. In the hilarious chaos the robbers escape and Emilien has a lot of explaining to do.

Did I mention this was also a comedy? It has a few great shootouts and some spectacular city racing but there are plenty of laughs, many of them subtle and in the scenery. At one point Emilien is in his office in nothing but a towel and then tries to grope his co-worker that he is infatuated with, getting slapped in the process. Another scene is based on Emilien burning down his house by leaving the kettle on, and even that is hilarious. Daniels distaste for cops is also amusing. He knows exactly where the speed traps are in the city and speeds past them while giving the finger to the waiting cops. He ends up with Emilien as his next customer, who pretends to be an IT professional, and who witnesses first hand Daniel doing what he does best. After nearly crashing more than once they arrive at the destination, the police office, and Emilien reveals who he is and arrests Daniel. D'oh.

Cutting Daniel a deal, Emilien offers him the role as a temporary undercover cop due to his exemplary driving skills. Emilien needs help in breaking the case of the bank robbers - a gang of Germans known as The Mercedes (they drive, well, Mercedes cars) - so the two pair up for a stakeout, followed by an interrogation that ends in another hysterical, inept shootout (Emilien is obviously better suited as a desk-cop).

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Sammy Naceri and Frederic Diefenthal work together well and continue to star in this movie's three sequels. They have a similar on-screen relationship to that of B:13's Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle, even playing similar loveable street-wise rogue and by-the-books officer of the law roles. They work together to attempt to foil the bank robbers on two more occasions, ultimately ending in an awesomely crafted booby-trap plan hatched by Daniel and aided by his former pizza delivery associates.

This is a relatively early Besson piece, before both B:13 and The Transporter, though his most well known movies were already in his past (The Fifth Element was only the year before Taxi). You can see in hindsight the traits that went on to influence those movies, though they were all on a much grander scale. For the pure action fans, the fast-pace, numerous car pile ups and shootouts and short 86 minute length will please, though there is more to get out of the movie than just action.

There are four Taxi movies in the series now, and an unfortunate American remake that Besson also penned, starring... Queen Latifah? As the taxi driver? For god's sake they couldn't have miscast that any worse if they tried. Stick to original, and I will review sequels in the future!

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The Video:

Whilst the picture is clean and crisp and the stereo French audio pretty damn good, this DVD commits a major sin. The film is presented in its correct scope aspect ratio, however as the DVD is not 16:9 enhanced there are black bars on the top AND sides of the picture. What's more is that I couldn't even use my DVD players zoom to fill the screen as the English subtitles were BURNT IN to the picture, in the non-picture area. Gah! An annoyance to an otherwise excellent movie.

Sourced From:

$3 + Shipping from eBay from a UK seller.

Trailer:

More Screens:

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3 comments:

  1. I actually liked the Taxi remake-but in all fairness when I saw it, I had absolutely NO idea that it was a remake(and i'm sure most people that saw it didn't know it either)-And I would do want see the original film and it's sequels, but unfortunately they haven't been given a legal DVD release here in the states so that's not really an option-Also Queen Latifah's WAS originally written as a man-but that got changed in the script though the actual character was changed very little aside from that.

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  2. That's a real shame you haven't got a legit US release yet. I've noticed that before as well, like the movie [REC] which I am still not sure if you can get in the US, because they were trying to push the remake Quarantine instead. Still it's worth a blind buy and if you can play PAL discs they go cheaply on eBay.

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  3. Classic French Film! Will have to re-watch it one day!

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