Marseilles pizza delivery man Daniel quits his job after six years on the waiting list for a taxi driver licence and embarks on his dream career. He is reunited with his on/off girlfriend, always nice and polite to customers, and everything seems to be going well until one day, when he gives a ride to Emilien, who unbeknownst to him is a local police superintendent. Daniel’s speciality is getting his customers to their destination in record time, regardless of the traffic laws he might break on the way and needless to say, this results in him losing his licence. However, Emilien and the rest of the Marseilles police force are also engaged in a game of cat and mouse with a gang of German bank robbers who are terrorising the town and Emilien comes up with a way for Daniel to retain his licence and help catch the bad guys.
To describe Taxi as fast-paced, would be to do it a disservice. It absolutely flies along from one expertly staged driving sequence to the next, just taking the occasional breath to drop in sufficient plot to take us to the next set piece. It has no pretensions to be anything other than a hugely entertaining 90 minutes. The action is electric and the humour is broad. Gérard Pirès directs the film very well and although excelling at the thrill-a-minute chase scenes, is also smart enough to also allow just enough time for the characters to establish themselves. There’s no real depth to Luc Besson’s script (indeed it was written while he waited for The Fifth Element to come together) and everyone is pretty one dimensional, but it’s sufficient to get us rooting for the good guys and he clearly has a good handle on how to keep an audience entertained for an hour and a half. Anyway, the car’s the star here and kudos should also go to the stunt drivers and technical crew for making what are highly controlled and choreographed driving sequences appear as if they were grabbed on the fly. Phrases like heart-pounding and adrenaline-filled get thrown around whenever a car chase shows up on screen, but there are moments in Taxi when I genuinely breathed in and clenched. It sounds ridiculous when written down, but believe me, it makes for thrilling ride.
Taxi has its UK Blu-ray debut courtesy of Second Sight Films and is presented in a flawless 2.35:1 print. The picture is bright and sharp, without being overblown, and there’s plenty of detail within. Audio is provided by a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix and an uncompressed stereo alternative. Not having a surround sound set-up, I opted for the stereo track, which is clear and nicely balances the roar of the cars with the smooth beats of IAM, the Marseilles-based rap group who provide the film’s main soundtrack. The dialogue is also clear and audible above all this noise and, most importantly, in French. I remember renting Taxi on VHS back in the late 1990’s and being treated to an English dubbed, pan and scan version. Thankfully all subsequent releases have kept to the original language with English subtitles and this Second Sight disc is no exception.
Extras are limited to a 15 minutes behind the scenes promo, which looks like it was shot on videotape and made for TV. It’s a brief overview of how director Pirès came to the film, mixed with a few interviews with the principle cast and crew. It’s all perfectly pleasant and isn’t a huge revelation; in fact the most interesting thing I took from it was the fact that Pirès seems to have directed half the film with a broken arm. A theatrical trailer for the film is also included. This too is in good shape and looks like it was taken from the same source as the main feature.
I love Taxi. I loved it when I first saw it 15 years ago and I still love it now. With the exception of some outdated Peugeots, it hasn’t aged at all and remains a sexy, funny, thrilling romp through some beautiful Marseilles locations. All the performances are good and though not particularly subtle, they’re just right for this film. It’s spawned three sequels, a remake and a TV spin-off, but this is the original and the best. Second Sight’s disc has it looking the finest it’s ever been and not only is it a no-brainer for fans, it’s the perfect way for anyone new to its Gallic charms to catch the film. Thoroughly recommended.
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