TYPE OF REVIEW : GOOD OL’ REVIEW
You’ll be hard pressed to find a more fun, exciting television experience than when watching SBS’ latest blockbuster series Taxi Driver (모범택시/Deluxe Taxi). The adrenaline-fueled thriller captures the perfect balance of emotionally affecting-drama, roaring action sequences, lighthearted moments and vicarious satisfaction as it follows a team of on-call revenge specialists. An exceptional cast is just icing on the cake of what could end up being one of the year’s absolute best.
Lee Je Hoon is Kim Do Gi, a taxi driver by day and also one by night. That is, while he drives a regular orange taxi, he is also a member of the secret Rainbow Taxi Company that offers on-call revenge service to clients who request it. Driving a special deluxe taxi, Kim Do Gi listens as potential clients describe their stories of pain and injustice.
Do Gi, along with Rainbow Taxi CEO Jang Sung Chul (Kim Eui Sung), expert hacker Ahn Go Eun (Pyo Ye Jin) and engineers Choi Kyung Goo (Jang Hyuk Jin) and Park Jin Eon (Bae Yoo Ram), decide whether to take on each client and then proceed to craft intricate plans to achieve the justice and revenge each client hopes for. Elite prosecutor Kang Ha Na (Esom) also fights for justice, especially in a system that can too easily get twisted by outside forces. But she becomes suspicious of Do Gi and his seemingly secretive activities.
At its core, Taxi Driver presents a fascinating contrast between the law and what is essentially vigilante justice. It is an interesting dynamic that excitingly plays out through the course of the series, especially between Do Gi and Ha Na.
It’s hard not to root for Rainbow Taxi and their clients. Part of that is the fun, ragtag dynamic of the Rainbow Taxi team. But watching them deliver deliciously satisfying revenge is very exhilarating, especially when the cases, criminal acts and injustice against the victims seeking revenge are so horrific.
The sort of David and Goliath feeling that is an all-too-common and sadly realistic depiction in many Korean dramas gives this series that extra bit of emotional depth. Rainbow Taxi fights for the poor, weak or unconnected who are often easy targets of evil people in power and authority. Our heroes’ main goal is to offer support for the victims and help them find peace. And while their revenge plans can get quite bloody, they are careful not to become the monsters they are trying to fight against.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
CEO Jung has this verse hanging on the wall of his home and it is the philosophy he wishes for Rainbow Taxi to operate by. But as we see in the series, lines and vision can get blurred when one comes face to face with that evil.
Still, one of Taxi Driver‘s best accomplishments is maintaining a sense of hope. It is a refreshing idea for a crime/action thriller like this. Not everything is doom and gloom.
There are times it can feel that way here. Other similarly themed series about crime or revenge can tend to focus heavily on the dark aspect of such stories. Sometimes they lean into a guessing game of Who’s betraying who next. Other times it’s the series’ hero or heroine in an “us against the world” type of scenario as they face off against a seemingly unending onslaught of corrupt evil. None of those are bad things of course. But Taxi Driver is able to offer something uncommon and a bit refreshing.
But there is a lot of hopeful optimism, whether it is with the noble work of Rainbow Taxi or the integrity of honest people in law enforcement and the justice system.
The way that all sides are on equal footing, it makes the proceedings all the more nerve-racking and exciting. There’s an acknowledgement that the law isn’t perfect, but isn’t totally corrupted either. The same kind of gray area also exists for our on-call revenge specialists as well as other characters too.
Coupling that philosophical discussion with a cast of excellently written characters is just one more grand feat of the series. Taxi Driver can be considered a strong character-driven series. You care about these characters who each have their own deep foundations. And the cast delivers exceptional performances that solidify the engaging experience.
Kim Eui Sung is a steady hand as CEO Jang. While his team executes the details of each plan, Jang Sung Chul is the guiding force behind Rainbow Taxi’s mission. Though he oversees the success of each individual mission, he also balances a tense relationship with Baek Sung Mi, the powerful madam chairman of a far-reaching underground empire. Jang Sung Chul has quite a balancing act and that means Kim Eui Sung also has to mange that with his performance, which he absolutely does.
Baek Sung Mi, by the way, is brought to life by a scene-stealing and seductively mesmerizing performance by Cha Ji Yeon. She has commanding presence in every scene she is in and it is a performance to be experienced.
Pyo Ye Jin, Jang Hyuk Jin and Bae Yoo Ram are charming and fun as the rest of the Rainbow Taxi team. And when each of their characters must face far more dramatic and emotional material, they effortlessly rise to the challenge. The chemistry between all members of the Rainbow Taxi team is another of the series’ most appealing aspects.
KBS’ stunning miniseries White Christmas will always be one of my all-time favorites. And it has been amazing watching every member of its cast find success since then. That of course includes Esom who gives an assertively reserved performance as prosecutor Kang Ha Na. She is authoritative when she needs to be, but is also grounded and humble. The character requires a pretty nuanced performance and Esom easily delivers.
But all eyes are on the magnetic Lee Je Hoon. The talented actor is already fresh off of the excellent Move to Heaven this year and has proven himself as a great, versatile leading man over the years with a wide-ranging filmography that includes action, romantic drama and everything in between. As Kim Do Gi though, Lee Je Hoon takes it to a whole other level. An incredibly compelling and assertive performance that will leave you in awe most of the series.
When executing their revenge plans, Do Gi usually takes the lead and must become a chameleon of disguises and characters as they work to bring the justice their clients seek. Lee Je Hoon effortlessly shifts from badass hero to timid salaryman to nice homeroom teacher to cocky gangster at the drop of a hat. And that’s in addition to Do Gi having to deal with his own painful, tragic past. There’s no doubt Lee Je Hoon is a talented, charismatic actor. And Taxi Driver is an absolute showcase for him. No words can do justice to the performance he delivers in this series.
Taxi Driver also delivers with visuals. The series can be very pulpy. There’s no shortage of brutal fight scenes and spectacular action sequences. There are times when things can get so crazy, you’ll have to suspend your disbelief and just hop along for the ride. But again, it’s all part of the full experience.
Taxi Driver is just really the total package. The series has as much style as it has substance. Explosive action is paired with stories that have emotional depth. Characters are fully developed and well-rounded. The excellent cast delivers in every scene. Writing is tight, production is top-notch. All this and more come together for what is certainly going to end up being one of the very best of the year. Without hesitation, hopping along for the ride with Taxi Driver is one you won’t regret.
2 thoughts on “Good Ol’ Review: Adrenaline-Fueled, Character-Driven Thriller “Taxi Driver” Makes Its Case as One of the Year’s Best”
Drama of the year!