Taxi 3 starts with a superior set-up, a James Bond-esque chase scene through Marseilles, the good guy on a bicycle, running from the bad guys (on rollerblades). It’s goofy and funny–the best part being the bad guy running into a plexiglass (being carried on the street, a riff on the standard glass) and bouncing off it. It’s nothing spectacular, but it seems to show Taxi 3 is at least going to keep with the rest of the series in terms of diverting attention. Then the good guy reveals himself–and it’s Sylvester Stallone and Taxi 3 all of a sudden skyrockets in potential. After the intro’s done, there’s a beautiful Bond opening title riff. It seems like it’s going to be superior.
And then it all comes crashing down. Given the series always seems like Luc Besson writes the scripts on napkins at breakfast–a ninety minute diversion, some laughs and impressive driving, solid performances–it’d be hard for it to be a complete failure. But with such a strong opening, Taxi 3 sets itself up for a fall.
The script is at fault. The dialogue’s fine, but the plot’s lame. Besson’s greatest influence for these movies seems to be Beverly Hills Cop II (the emphasis on the villains elaborate and illogical heists) and this one’s no different. Klutzy cop Frédéric Diefenthal is after a gang who dresses up like Santa Claus–the story’s set at Christmas, which initially seemed like it would provide some good material, but it doesn’t. He’s so obsessed with the case–in the film’s weakest joke–he can’t tell girlfriend Emma Wiklund is eight months pregnant. Besson’s reasonably adept at finding comic moments for these characters, but that revelation scene is painfully unfunny. Samy Naceri finds out girlfriend Marion Cotillard is similarly with child (though she’s only just found out herself). Besson handles that situation far better, with an amusing driving scene where Naceri can’t pay attention to the road in order to monitor Cotillard’s condition.
It seems like Besson needed to accommodate Wiklund’s actual pregnancy and just figured setting up Cotillard would give him something for Diefenthal and Naceri to talk about in their handful of scenes together. They meet up around the halfway point, when Diefenthal drags Naceri into the plot. It’s forced and awkward, like it’s impossible to imagine the two hanging out when there isn’t a movie going on.
Besson uses Bai Ling as the main villain, which is stupid and predictable. She’s not bad, but she’s annoying.
Bernard Farcy is funny as Diefenthal’s moronic boss. Edouard Montoute is a solid police sidekick to Diefenthal and gets some of the edgier material. Apparently, black cops in Marseilles get run over all the time….
Krawczyk’s direction is decent, certainly suggestive of greater potential than Taxi sequels.
At the end, it picks up a little, since there is a twenty minute chase sequence (earlier, there’s a long and boring one, played for laughs, which definitely hurts the film). It’s a mildly diverting ninety minutes… which is the point. But the opening certainly suggests it could have been more.
Maybe I’m just upset Stallone never showed up again.
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