Frédéric Diefenthal and Samy Naceri star in TAXI, directed by Gérard Pirès for ARP Selection.

Taxi (1998, Gérard Pirès)

Taxi benefits greatly from its length–eighty-six minutes–and from Besson’s general understanding of how to amuse an audience. He does it to some success in his American films (a rather limited one, but he manages to create likable characters and not bore the viewer), but with Taxi, he does a lot better. The main selling point of the movie, besides the car chases–filmed from helicopter, they’re the antithesis of a Bourne Ultimatum chase, rather interested in creating something cool to see–is lead Samy Naceri. Naceri–a quick wikipedia search reveals–is a lot of trouble, which might explain why he’s never immigrated to Hollywood… because Naceri runs the movie all himself. He’s charismatic and engaging and it doesn’t hurt Besson’s script makes him not just the protagonist, but the character the others all look up to….

He’s like a French George Clooney in one of the Ocean’s movies.

The scenes with Naceri are boring cop scenes, even if the captain is a raving bigot who can’t stop referring to the Germans as Nazis–which is funny, but it’s only a gag and it functions as well as one. There’s also the dumb romance between secondary lead Frederic Diefenthal (who’s probably 5’4″) and Emma Sjoberg (who’s 5’9″)–the height difference is supposed to be funny, get it? Besson’s humor is always very obvious and works real well when the joke punchlines and then goes away, because the joke’s done. When he keeps coming back to it (height difference, Nazis)… it’s a mess.

However, the romance between Naceri and Marion Cotillard is quite nice, because Besson plays the scenes out in a contained, limited environment, to great effect. Situation, difficulty, resolution. Taxi is far from art, so having a lame Freitag triangle for all its plots and subplots is perfectly fine. I mean, if it ran ninety-seven minutes… no. But any modern movie able to run eighty-six minutes and be entertaining for a large majority of them can be shallow. It gets a pass on depth requirements.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Gérard Pirès; written by Luc Besson; director of photography, Jean-Pierre Sauvaire; edited by Veronique Lange; music by Akhenaton; production designer, Jean-Jacques Gernolle; produced by Besson, Laurent Petin and Michele Petin; released by ARP Selection.

Starring Samy Naceri (Daniel Morales), Frédéric Diefenthal (Émilien Coutant-Kerbalec), Marion Cotillard (Lilly Bertineau), Manuela Gourary (Camille Coutant-Kerbalec), Emma Sjöberg (Petra), Bernard Farcy (Commissaire Gibert) and Georges Neri (Joe).


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