Family man David (Bobby Soto) and his longtime partner, Creeper (Shia LaBeouf), are “tax collectors” for the crime lord Wizard, meaning they collect his cut from the profits of local gangs’ illicit dealings. But when Wizard’s old rival returns to Los Angeles from Mexico, the business is upended, and David finds himself desperate to protect what matters more to him than anything else: his family.
David Ayer has been one of the most brought-up names in Hollywood for a while now. Throughout the course of his career, he has directed some movies that are almost universally loved but has also made some that are almost universally hated. Among the list of loved ones are End of Watch and Fury, but some of his most hated are Suicide Squad and Bright.
His name has been brought up this year a ton though, mainly because fans of the DC Extended Universe are banding together to demand the “Ayer Cut” of Suicide Squad be released, seeing as how legendary filmmaker Zack Snyder was able to finally bring his version of Justice League to light, which will officially be released next year.
Whether you love or hate Ayer’s filmography, one thing that is quite noticeable in every single one of his films is the color palette. Almost every one of them is littered with green and blue, which, in my opinion, isn’t a good thing. Not only does it mean that none of his films stand out visually, but the combination is so overused in the industry to the point where it’s incredibly tiring now.
But the disgusting color scheme on display in The Tax Collector is the least of the movie’s problems. It’s a remarkably boring, uneventful mess that leads absolutely nowhere and feels like a film we have seen done numerous times before. The film never really understands what it wants to be, either. There are some instances in which it feels like some sort of crime drama akin to this year’s Capone or a really bad episode of The Sopranos, and there are also some instances in which it feels like other movies he has directed before such as End of Watch.
While watching the film, I couldn’t help but feel as though he wanted to try to recapture the magic of his older movies, because a lot of people really enjoy them compared to his newer ones. Sadly though, as a result, The Tax Collector feels like a recycled picture with nothing interesting to say.
The opening titles of the movie read “Love, Honor, Loyalty, Family”. As soon as I saw that, I admittedly got a little bit excited because I was hoping that this was going to be a story of how far one will go to protect their family. The inner struggles that people have to go through in order to do whatever it takes to save the ones they love. I was hoping that it was going to show how gritty and dark this world can be, but unfortunately, I got none of those things. Every single scene feels wasted. The story here was not only massively boring but didn’t really lead anywhere exciting.
This is a movie with a running time of ninety-five minutes, and yet the first thirty-five of those minutes are wasted as we follow our lead characters just doing everyday activities. I understand that this was done in order for us to get a basic understanding of what these characters’ lives are like. What they do on a daily basis and their inner workings. But this creates for a tragically dull first act and one that doesn’t even have any sort of conflict that would make the second act interesting.
If I’m going to be honest, there is only one thing I genuinely enjoyed about The Tax Collector – the lead performance from Bobby Soto. He feels surprisingly raw and intimidating in the role of David Cuevas, a man who you get the sense could kill you at any moment if he wanted to. A performance I was looking forward to seeing in the film was Shia LaBeouf’s. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that good. He overacts so much here to the point where I simply couldn’t take him seriously after a while. This role didn’t require him to get into the character as much as he did. He delivers every line with way too much gusto and his performance often comes across as cringy rather than scary.
If The Tax Collector is any indication, it’s time for David Ayer to go back to the drawing board and find out what made his older movies really connect with audiences and critics alike. I can’t see anybody getting much enjoyment out of this sloppy crime story that has no surprises up its sleeves.
The Tax Collector is a sloppy crime drama that has no surprises up its sleeves and brandishes a story that ultimately feels too familiar to get invested in.
Overall Grade: D
MPAA Rating: N/A
Directed by: David Ayer
Distributed by: RLJE Films
Release Date: August 7, 2020
Running Time: 95 minutes