The Tax Collector (2020) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

Shia LaBeouf has had a great run lately with Honey Boy (2019), Peanut Butter Falcon (2019), and American Honey (2016). When it was announced that he was reteaming with director David Ayer after working on Fury (2014), there was hope that this could be Ayer’s comeback film. While there are some compelling elements in the film and some interesting cinematography, the story felt confusing and generic overall.

David (Bobby Soto) and his muscle, Creeper (LaBeouf), work as “Tax Collectors” for a crime lord. Through the course of their work, they discover an old enemy has returned to take over. David is offered a choice: make a deal working for a devil, or risk losing everything.

LaBeouf famously got a chest tattoo for this role. It’s not a total surprise, as his decisions to dive into his character and the world those characters live in have spawned many legends. On Fury, he cut his face, had teeth removed, and refused to shower during filming. Those elements seemed to fit into the world the characters were in. In this movie, his chest tattoo is almost never seen and thus calls into question why he felt it was necessary to have. Still, it basically goes to show that no role is too small for LaBeouf to take seriously. He’s really good in the movie, although his character doesn’t really get much to do. 

Ayer has definitely had some critical misses in recent years between Bright (2017) and Suicide Squad (2016). However, End of Watch (2012) was a film that clicked for me when I saw it, and The Tax Collector feels like it wants to be another End of Watch that never quite gets there. The relationships in the film are supposed to be the emotional core, but they all feel severely underdeveloped. Whether it’s David and Creeper, David and Alexis (Cinthya Carmona), or David and his boss, none of them really get the attention or detail to make them feel substantial. 

The Tax Collector was a film I went into with great excitement but left feeling underwhelmed. Moments that were supposed to be impactful felt cheesy, and the violence felt so extreme that it seemed silly. The subtext is on the surface, and the film’s messages were odd. In the end, The Tax Collector earns the Not a Total Waste of Time rating.

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