FILM REVIEW: A Taxi Driver 暴好人
A-Cui is a meek taxi driver who has spent his life submitting to the whims of other people. One day, he decides to stand up for himself and takes life into his own hands. But fate decides to play a cruel joke that plunges A-Cui into a whirlwind of revenge. Consumed by rage, A-Cui has to decide if the satisfaction of revenge is truly worth the cost.
Director: Yan-Hong Chen
Cast: Yiwen Chen
Runtime: 25 Mins
Review by Leon Lau
Revenge films have gotten popular over the years with films like Taken (2008) because of how universal the desire for revenge is. Everyone has contemplated it at least once in their life, since it appeals to that part of us that feels wronged and taps into our primal need for vengeance. It has become a saturated sub-genre, which is why it’s all the more impressive that A Taxi Driver (2018) manages to feel so different from the pack.
Instead of being just another revenge fantasy, A Taxi Driver delves deeper by exploring the consequences behind our actions. This is a unique, gritty thriller that takes a hard look at the cathartic nature of violence.
A-Cui (Yiwen Chen) is a meek taxi driver who spends his days staying out of trouble. He’s been a doormat all his life and is constantly being taken advantage of by others. One day, he snaps and decides to seek out someone who has wronged him, setting him on a strange path of revenge and self discovery.
With his thin, forlorn face and hunched over shoulders, Yiwen Chen lends a sympathetic quality as the meek everyday man. A-Cui may be a morally ambiguous protagonist, but the script wisely positions him as an underdog that you can’t help but root for. His quest for vengeance is as messy as it is thrilling to watch, and the film is a blast to watch thanks to brilliant acting and confident execution.
Director Yan-Hong Chen directs A Taxi Driver with a cold precision that gives the film a no-nonsense tone. No time is wasted delivering exposition, which makes the pacing feel efficient and confident. All of this is elevated through strong camerawork, where long drawn out shots are used to ratchet up the tension with uncomfortable silence.
Dialogue as a whole takes a backseat in favor of silence, and the result is a stripped down thriller that boils down the essence of revenge into a morality tale. Visually arresting cinematography helps to sell an oppressive atmosphere of unease and murky greens dominate the color palette, giving an almost horror like tone to the night scenes.
There is a griminess that permeates the entire film that enhances the down and dirty vibe the film is going for. The subject material will not be for everyone, but there is something strangely earnest about how Yan-Hong Chen approaches his characters. He bears every character flaw to the audience and the result is a remarkably vulnerable character study that sucks you in. You don’t want to relate to A-Cui, but it’s easy to see a part of him in all of us.
A Taxi Driver is fine entry into the genre of morally ambiguous revenge thrillers. It grabs you by the neck and refuses to let go until its shocking conclusion. It stays with you long after the credits have rolled, and that is the mark of a great film.
About Kaohsiung Shorts
高雄拍 (Kaohsiung Shorts) aims to make Kaohsiung the Taiwanese short film base, to discover and showcase new short films that break the norms, boundaries and stereotypes through the use of media. Started in 2012 by the Kaohsiung Film Archive, Kaohsiung Shorts is a short film grant that aims to encourage film talents to be based in Kaohsiung and be inspired by the city. Films created under this programme will be having their Taiwan premiere during the Kaohsiung International Film Festival. Since 2015, short films created under the Kaohsiung Shorts have been showcased in other countries such as Hong Kong, France, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.