Review – Taxi Driver

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.

Welcome to the bat-cave

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…

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Review – Mad Dog

Review – Mad Dog

Just an all-over great show, with action, drama, a little comedy and romance, and a whole lotta love.  This story illustrates how people make their own families.  The rag tag team of Mad Dog all had different, tattered pasts but when they came together, they found a home.

The plot is this:  A plane crashed killing a ton of people and injuring more and the reports said the pilot was to blame, taking the aircraft down on a suicide mission, leaving his younger brother with a fortune in insurance money.  The younger brother, played to perfection by Woo Do-Hwan, isn’t convinced his older brother was the culprit however.  Unfortunately, no one believes him.  Let alone the leader of a rogue team of investigators who lost his wife and son in the crash and passionately despises him.  How these people come together – to work towards a common cause of uncovering massive corruption, is the basic plot.  And it’s captivating, thrilling and hugely enjoyable.

The Bromance is Strong With These Two.

The entire show was great – from beginning to end – and really let all the characters shine.  Even the bad guys (and there were several) became fully developed, their motivations and personalities distinctive and interesting.  My favorite was the unique, twisted relationship between Joo Hyun-Ki, the heir to the airline company, and Cha Hong-Joo, the heir to the insurance company.   Those two snakes were mesmerizing!  Especially the crazed Joo Hyun-Ki, played by the talented Choi Won-Young.

Love ’em or Hate ’em… these two were made for each other.

Oh, the playful, loving relationships of the Mad Dog team, all dependent on each other, full of laughs and genuine emotion, how I loved them all!  They truly cared about each other and it grounded the drama with heart.  These were people you liked to spend time with – and wanted to see succeed despite all the obstacles in their way.  It made escaping into each episode with them more exciting and rewarding as a viewer.  Other shows should take note of this formula – as it is often sadly lacking in thrillers, the creation of a unique, likable cast.

The Team of Mad Dog… which you want to be adopted by…

Who knew a show about insurance fraud would be so spectacular?

Overall Rating – 9/10.  Using White Collar Crime to Catch Criminals.

Review – Save Me (from people!)

Review – Save Me (from people!)

Is this show a dark commentary on humanity?  YES.  Was it awesome?  Yes… but it’s very, very dark, so light a few candles and pray for the soul of the world before you start viewing.

This is the story about how a family got sucked into a cult.  It’s also a story about growing up, and realizing your parents aren’t the gods of our childhood.  It’s a story about society, and how the struggle for power changes people.   Power over your own life, power over circumstances, power over others.  It’s a commentary on politics, religion, government, and the basic needs of humans – to be useful, to be happy, and to be safe.  And at its heart, it’s a story about friendship.  There’s a lot packed into this drama.

It’s not a pleasant experience, though.  The drama tackled quite a few uncomfortable topics – from police corruption to political corruption, violent school bullying to murder, unbelievable cruelty to cold manipulations of others – both emotionally and physically.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  I’m not sure I want to again for a while, either.  You’ll want to give your brain a rest after this intensity… maybe watch a Disney movie or something.  Cleanse the palette, cleanse the soul.

Overall Rating – 9/10.  Getting To New Heaven Is Hell On Earth.

Thoughts on religion, my personal opinions on the matter, and various musings follow…

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Review – Suspicious Partner / Love in Trouble

Review – Suspicious Partner / Love in Trouble

What happens when you take a pretty good plot for a standard 16 episode drama and try to pull it apart like taffy into a drawn out short format series that goes on for 40 long (yet annoyingly short and empty) episodes?  You ruin a perfectly good show, that’s what happens.  Can we just stop making these 35 minute format shows?  They’re so annoying!  This drama was just a big mess – and I blame the formatting for 90% of the problem.

The cast was stellar and had great chemistry – all of them – though it felt more like “playing” than “acting”… as if they were all enjoying a nice vacation from serious work for a while and just goofing off for an easy paycheck.  So it wasn’t an unpleasant waste of my time – I enjoyed watching them enjoy themselves, I guess.  I am a huge Ji Chang-Wook fan, but this role required very little of him.  He just had to show up, basically, and be adorable… which he can do in his sleep, I imagine.  Sigh.  I was all on board seeing him in a romantic comedy, but this drama did nothing but frustrate me.

With the exception of the villain, played to absolute perfection by Dong Ha (someone just give him an award immediately, cause he brought his acting chops to the table while everyone else came empty handed).

I’m too annoyed to even review the plot.  It’s basically about lawyers and prosecutors and the challenge of trying to determine the guilt and innocence of people when all these external and internal factors are messing with the evidence  (watch Remember, if you want a damned fine drama on this subject).  The two main leads fall in love, so lots of cutesy flirting and kissing.  Everyone is charming and cute, but other than that… there’s not a lot going on with their characters.  As mentioned, the only character who really mesmerized me was the villain – and the cool plot twist at the end could not save this long, rambling story line or this show.  The biggest surprise was that I actually watched the whole show – in chunks, over the past few weeks.  If I had tried to watch it sequentially, I probably would have abandoned it in frustration long ago.

Overall Rating – 4/10.  Ji Chang-Wook’s Star Power Can Not Survive In Black Holes.