Director: Gerard Pires

A Luc Besson film in all but its director’s credit, this enjoyable action caper was a huge success in France, despite the lack of star names in the cast. Besson wrote and produced Taxi but handed over directing duties to Gerard Pires, an old hand at making comedies and action flicks.

The setting is Marseilles, where speed freak Daniel (Samy Naceri), a former pizza delivery man, now works as a taxi driver. When he’s caught for speeding, Daniel has to accept a deal offered by Emilien (Frederic Diefenthal), a police officer who has failed his driving test for the eight time. Daniel can keep his licence if he helps Emilien catch a gang of German bank robbers who are emptying the coffers of the city’s banks and making their escape in powerful Mercedes cars. Helped by Emilien’s doting mother, together with Daniel’s girlfriend and a whole squad of pizza delivery guys, these unlikely collaborators draw up a plan to corner the gang.

As one would expect of a Besson production, Taxi is mounted with very impressive technical skill, complete with such trademark qualities as sleek wide-screen cinematography and a pounding music score. The stunts are spectacular and all the more effective for not relying on any digital effects or optical tricks: those cars really are careering down narrow streets at over 120 mph.

Despite the many exhilarating chases, Taxi is first and foremost a comedy, and Pires deserves credit for lavishing as much attention on the humour as he does on the stunts. The young leads and the Marseilles settings also help to give Taxi a certain freshness and novelty. Above all, this is a light, fun film about a group of talented amateurs using their skills to outmanoeuvre incompetent cops and nasty villains. The whole wacky concoction is far more enjoyable than Besson’s more prestigious productions.

France, 1998.
English subtitles.
Dolby digital stereo.
87 min.

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