Tag Archives: shia labeouf

‘The Tax Collector’ Review

And so, David Ayer continues to have a baffling filmography…

“The Tax Collector” is the latest film from writer-director David Ayer, and marks a return to his gritty roots after big-budget studio blockbusters like “Bright” and “Suicide Squad.” The film follows two enforcers for a drug lord (Bobby Soto and Shia LaBeouf) as they find themselves on the wrong end of a rivalry; Cinthya Carmona and George Lopez also star.

I have a hot and cold relationship with David Ayer as a filmmaker. I really enjoy “Street Kings,” “Fury,” and “End of Watch” (and even “Sabotage” has some fun action), however “Suicide Squad” and “Bright” are both pretty ugly-looking messes. He seems to be at this best when his stories focus more police and gangs in South Central Los Angeles (he also wrote “Training Day” and the first “The Fast and the Furious” film), which makes it all-the-more baffling that “The Tax Collector” is his most bland film to-date.

I really like Shia LaBeouf as an actor, always have dating back to growing up with him on “Even Stevens” and “Holes,” and have enjoyed his more adult work in Ayer’s “Fury” and last year’s semi-biopic “Honey Boy.” Here LaBeouf (who, for the uninitiated, is white) is playing a (seemingly) Hispanic gang member and his performance is… I really don’t even know how to describe it. Like much of the film he kind of just exists, sometimes awkwardly doing a Mexican accent (and sometimes speaking normal), and plays the no-nonsense tough guy enforcer card. He and George Lopez are the only recognizable names on the poster (although Ayer staples like Cle Sloan and Noel Gugliemi pop up), so much of the lifting is done by relative newcomers like Bobby Soto (who, to his credit, is fine enough).

Ayer has been vocal about wanting to give Hispanics more presence in Hollywood with this film, and in the past has been accused of portraying minorities in a bad light. I’m not sure this film about gangs will help change that perception of him around town, but he deserves the credit for giving no-names a chance to star.

Ayer’s films, even the bad ones like “Bright” or “Sabotage,” at least have decent action sequences, which makes me shocked that this film is seemingly devoid of much action. For the first 45 minutes of this 90 minute film, it is just LaBeouf and Soto driving around Los Angeles intimidating people into paying their dues. The film has some very poor and confusing editing choices as well, and I’m not sure if it was Ayer trying to be artsy or editor Geoffrey O’Brien (who cut together “Bright” and assisted on several other Ayer films) was just feeling frisky and random when he sat down at his laptop.

“The Tax Collector” is set to be a VOD release, and even if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic it still never feels like it is anything more than your typical Bruce Willis/Nic Cage Walmart bargain bin thriller. There are so many more films out right now, new and old, that depict gang life in Los Angeles (just scroll Ayer’s filmography or open Netflix), and this one should be so far down the list that even the IRS wouldn’t bother to check it.

Critics Rating: 3/10

‘Fury’ Is Powerful, Gritty and One of Year’s Best

Fury_2014_posterBrad Pitt and World War II. So far, it has proven to be a potent combonation. First Pitt was hunting Nazis in “Inglorious Basterds”, now he is commanding a tank in Germany.

“Fury”, written and directed by “End of Watch’s” David Ayer, tells the tale of five American soldiers who get stuck in their tank behind enemy lines. Outnumbered and outgunned, they must fight their way through and defeat the surrounding Nazi forces. Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña and Jon Bernthal portray the members of the tank.

There’s really no point of sugar coating it or beating around the bush: “Fury” is one of the year’s best movies and one of the better, and most realistic, war films of all-time. From the haunting depictions of battle, to the heart-wrenching performances, to the high production value everything about this film is as beautiful as it is chilling.

The performances across the board are nothing short of fantastic, with the standouts being Pitt and Lerman. Pitt plays a man who has clearly let the evils of war shatter any morals and sensitivity he ever had, and this is demonstrated when on the first day of the job for the tank’s new recruit (Lerman), Pitt orders him to execute an unarmed German solider.

I have never been a Logan Lerman fan, I believe he plays a pretentious, spoiled boy in every role he takes (“Noah” and “3:10 to Yuma”, just to name two), but the man shut me up with his performance here. He is a soldier who was pulled away from his desk and put on the front lines, and it seems like he will never get used to the idea of taking a human life. But throughout the film we see him begin to change and become more desensitized to the notion of war, but he never loses the innocence that we empathize with.

The rest of the cast are all cookie-cutter roles (minority member, jerky sociopath and Bible-thumper), but the actors all have their moments to shine.

Ayer has proven that he is more than capable of shooting an engaging action scene, but never while sacrificing drama or content. Even when the bullets are flying and shells are being rocketed off, we see the characters’ weaknesses and at times hesitation in their actions. Even at the end of the film, in the midst of an extended battle, the action never feels derivative or redundant, because we are getting heavy doses of human drama, accompanied by a fantastic score from composer Steven Price.

What holds “Fury” back from the greatness it so clearly was striving for is a scene in the middle of the film. After taking a town, Pitt and Lerman come across two German women, who proceed to make lunch. The scene drags on for 22 minutes (I remember looking at my phone twice), and in the end the entire interaction took place simply for a plot point down the road.

If that one scene had been shorter, which it should have been, then “Fury” may have been able to be mentioned in the same breath as “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Hurt Locker” for greatest war movie of all-time. That being said, “Fury” is still a fantastically shot, grittily depicted and powerfully acted war story, which features a climax that had my theater silent when the credits began to roll.

Critics Rating: 9/10