What would happen if James Bond, Mr. 007 himself, decided to quit tracking down international threats and instead focused his attention on his own community? “I’m sorry, M, I can’t track down those nuclear codes right now because I’m busy helping this teenager deal with the punks who torment him at school.” I mean… if only, right?
What if Batman stopped chasing after criminals in Gotham and instead opened a help-line? “Oh, sorry Commissioner Gordon, Batman can’t help you with that bank heist right now… he’s helping an old woman who got swindled by a mail scam.”
Well, that’s what Taxi Driver is. It’s everyone’s wild dream of justice-for-hire. So get on board!
In Taxi Driver – people who have been screwed over by the system can seek revenge outside of it, by contracting someone to do their dirty work for them. This is yet another show that illustrates how people with money and power have less fear of retribution. At the same time… it’s a show about criminals who ultimately use money and power to create “justice.” Do you see it? Do you see the Batman parallels? I mean, in this show they have a secret base in an underground lair, access to fancy computer systems and a nerd who inexplicably knows how to use them, they have fancy customized cars and motorcycles with gadgets, and they have connections gained from wealth. All of of these things give our vigilantes the power to act.
What is Batman without his bat-cave and wealth? Who is James Bond without his fancy gadgets and his military combat training? Well, Batman would just be a pissed off dude on a rampage – and one that is bound to be quickly rounded up and tossed into the pen. And James Bond would just be a dishy misogynist. The wealth and power is required. So… it can get a little messy when you’re tackling problems like social justice based on inequality – because the answer to the problem shouldn’t be the problem. But whatever. This show realizes there are problems with the premise and addresses them as best it can. It even makes a point of highlighting some of the pitfalls with vigilante justice. Cause justice is complicated.
But sometimes we just want a hero to rescue us.
A theatrical hero who likes to wear a gold hockey mask on occasion. Cause style matters, damn it.
It’s not like this is anything new. Robin Hood. Hong Gil-dong. Ned Kelly. Bandits we love. Played by attractive male actors. Give them a tragic back story, a broody demeanor, an impressive physique, and it’s cat nip for boys and girls alike. This drama reminded me how much I love Lee Je-Hoon (who I had only known from Signal). I was so mesmerized by his performance that I immediately ran to his wiki page to see if there any other dramas I had missed (and was gifted the beautiful perfection of Move to Heaven, as well as the gift I wish I could return of Where Stars Land).
Though I think Taxi Driver would have been great no matter who they cast in the roles, since the writing was fantastic and the plotlines were action packed and exciting, I believe we should all thank the people who decided Lee Ji-Hoon should play the lead. Cause he nailed it.
Without getting into spoilers, let me say there is an unexpected element to this character that really elevated him beyond your usual Batman-hero-type: The vigilante in Taxi Driver wanted to be theater major. That’s right, folks, this butt-kicking badass is a drama club geek at heart. He gave up his dreams of the stage and enlisted in the military for, you know, whatever reason, but underneath his lean muscled exterior beats the heart of a man dying to act. So when he gets to go undercover to root out criminals and sabotage their lives… he’s not just undercover, he is living for these roles. Not only is this unexpected and really funny, but and it adds a whole juicy layer of nuance to the character. Sure, he enjoys his work of vigilante justice, but you can tell he loves his work when he gets to play a character. When he’s playing a geeky teacher, a shady businessman, a lothario gangster… he’s playing to his heart. He’s putting is full game into it. He’s having so much fun, it’s contagious.
This is where I think the choice of Lee Ji-Hoon really paid off, cause he’s able to shift into all these characters and you can tell he’s having a blast doing it, just like the character he’s playing is supposed to be doing. It’s very meta.
Listen, you need to watch this show. Unless you’re put off by violence, this show is going to win you over completely. It’s got it all. A great cast (and every character gets their moments to shine), a unique overarching storyline as well as amazing individual episode plotlines, fantastic production design (it’s beautifully shot, the action scenes are epic, the aesthetics are spot on in every scene), and a killer soundtrack (a cool mix of rock and synth that will have you searching the internet for the OST). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be invested. The show is based on the webtoon The Deluxe Taxi by Carlos and Lee Jae-jin, and apparently many of the crimes are based on real crimes committed in Korea.
What can I say other than watch it? WATCH IT. Watch it now.
Rating: 10/10. Deluxe Taxi Service Includes Stylish Revenge.
And now for a few spoilery-extra thought…
I laughed out loud when the owner of the Taxi Service is giving his speech about this murdered parents and says something along the lines of “I can’t let it go.” And then it pans around to the room and it’s basically a SHRINE to his parents… nothing has been changed… even the calendar remains. Gee, I wonder why you can’t stop obsessing over it?
Like all of our leading characters, this guy needed therapy.
I thought it was hysterical that our taxi service owner guy thought that throwing a bunch of criminals into an inhumane box was going to reform them. Did this guy do ANY research on crime and punishment before he opened his Vendetta Business? He seemed genuinely shocked that this punishment had not caused his livestock to repent for their sins. Was it supposed to be ironic? That the people with the money to make changes always just charge forward, funding whatever directive comes to their mind, without asking any specialists or people with knowledge of the area what is needed first. Like how the state and federal governments are always making decisions on how to “fix schools” – but they never do anything that people actually working in the school wanted or needed.
We’ve already established he needed therapy. But he also needed to consult with a psychologist to understand WHY most people commit crimes. What the social and economic factors that contribute to crime? Can behavior be changed if the root problem is not addressed? It’s an extremely complicated thing, crime – with many variations and causes. If it were easy fix, humanity would have solved it already. What’s easy is to throw people into cages – which is what we’ve been doing for centuries despite it having little to no effect on crime rates.
I also thought it was funny that our taxi service owner guy did not expect his crime-boss associate to betray him. The guy was so delusional. If you’re doing business with someone who has no problem throwing people into coffins for months at a time, then, uh, you’re dealing with someone who has questionable ethics. It also means you, yourself, have questionable ethics.
Thankfully, our vigilantes did seem to come around to the fact they were kinda monsters for what they were doing in the end. I’m not sure what their solution will be… but I’m curious to see what they’ll do in Season 2 if this show is continued.
I did find it completely suspicious and irresponsible that the rest of the team had not bothered to ask what happens to the criminals they catch after they catch them. Maybe instinctively they knew it was better not to know. But still.
They even had a Hacker, who could have easily figured it out, apparently. Cause she was a “Hacker” with a capital “H,” you know, the type that means you’re going to get whatever the plot needs with this character. What can’t they hack, you ask? Well, don’t ask cause the answer is nothing. They can hack everything. All it takes is several computer monitors and Zip Bam Boom, your hacking needs are solved. How did they learn such amazing skills? Don’t ask. What exactly are they typing into that keyboard? Uhm, stop asking. Listen, very few of us understand the complications of computer systems, networks, and cyber security. It’s why we can have Hackers with a capital H fill in the blanks. Cause it’s basically all blanks for most of us, if we’re honest.
Despite the character flaws and the character short-hand, I appreciate South Korea for attempting to make some kind of sense of the world. When I watch these dramas, I am able to see reflections of my own questioning about the nature of humanity, about the problems of the modern world. And like my own mind, these shows tend to fall back onto cliches. To tie themselves in knots. To get lost down one path of thought only to realize later that in fact that path was a circle. We have a lot of issues to solve, as nations, as a global society, as individuals. And it’s an overwhelming task, sometimes. But we keep trying. Shows like this are evidence that we’re trying. Sure, it’s not perfect. Sometimes it’s a mess. But we’re looking into it, playing out scenarios, attempting to see where the pieces fit together tightly and where there is wiggle room. We’re trying to work it out.
It’s the only way to get it done.
Just keep trying. Learn from our mistakes. Recognize patterns and pitfalls. Analyze the data. Try again.