“The Tax Collector” is directed by David Ayer and stars Bobby Soto, Shia LaBeouf, George Lopez, Cinthya Carmona, Lana Parrilla and Jose Conejo Martin. It follows two tax collectors, David and Creeper, who are challenged when a rival gang returns to their city and threatens their safety.
I recollect watching the trailer and immediately rolling my eyes so far back into my head due to its subject matter. I wasn’t entirely happy to watch another movie about Los Angeles gangs with cholos and the “hood.” I have zero issues with Mexicans or Mexican Americans portraying gang members in Los Angeles (after all, there are Mexicans and Mexican American gang members). I also have no problem with individuals from other backgrounds depicting them. Gangs are known for being inclusive, so it’s not rare to see members from different ethnicities. However, I am tired of watching the same group of people portrayed on film over and over and over. We are more than gangs, we are more than villains and bandits, we are more than what Hollywood has ingrained into our brains a Latino prototype should be. But I gave the film a chance after learning that Ayer lived in the hood in Los Angeles.
First of all, the trailer was misleading; it was nothing more than a marketing tactic resulting in unnecessary controversy. LaBeouf takes on a supporting role in the film as Creeper and isn’t doing brownface. Soto plays David, the protagonist of the story. I’m not familiar with the entire Ayer filmography, so I can’t speak of nor compare this film to any of his previous work, aside from “Suicide Squad” and “Bright.”
The film opens with the words “Love, Honor, Loyalty, Family” over the portrait of David and his family. It was at that exact moment when I realized this film wasn’t going to be good. Followed by cringeworthy dialogue and many (and I mean many) eye roll-inducing one-liners, it attempts to connect the audience to David but fails because of its weak script.The chemistry between Daniel and Creeper is absent, so I found it difficult to believe their buddy relationship. LaBeouf gives it his all with whatever he’s presented, as does the rest of the cast, but it wasn’t enough to save the film.
The quick editing and awkwardly shot angles make this film messy, and it takes away any emotional potential it had. Its one-dimensional villain, Conejo, comes off as a comical caricature that’s frustrating to watch. It’s excessively gory with some intriguing action sequences that fail to deliver their potential. Lopez and Parrilla are only in the film for a short amount of time, and I’m saddened that their talent was wasted.
My issue with this film is the filmmaking aspect of it. Culturally this film doesn’t offend me. I initially thought from the trailer that this film would depict stereotypical characters but realized while watching that the culture is accurately depicted from my experience growing up in East Los Angeles. We must give credit where it’s due. Ayer has been one of the few filmmakers to have Latino characters in his films. He’s been inclusive about representation and I respect him for it. It’s difficult to give this film a negative review when Latinos are rarely given the opportunity to be leads in movies, and that’s what makes “The Tax Collector” so frustrating to watch.
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Rosa is a Rotten Tomatoes certified film critic who’s passionate about advocating for Latinx and female representation. She’s the co-founder and co-host of the podcast Latinx Lens, which is focused on representation and contribution of the Latinx community in Television and Film industry. She’s the assistant editor of ITOL (In Their Own League), a site and podcast dedicated to highlight women in the industry. She’s proud member of HCA (Hollywood Critics Association), LEJA (Latino Entertainment Journalists Association), OAFFC (Online Association of Female Film Critics). She’s a coffee addict that unapologetically loves pineapple on her pizza.