New Streaming Releases: The Tax Collector (2020) - Reviewed

photo copyright Cross Creek Pictures

Shia LaBeouf jumps off the feel good nature of The Peanut Butter Falcon for the dark and brooding David Ayer production of The Tax Collector. 

Based on his own original script, Ayer is back in rare form, proving that he still knows how to bring tension, realistic violence, and damaged characters to the screen. Taking the director back to his days of writing the Denzel Washington modern day classic, Training Day, this latest Ayer project brings him back full circle to what he does best. While The Tax Collector won't win any awards, it's a definite call back to his prior stress loaded works like End of Watch and Fury. Considering his budget was much lower than his major studio releases, Ayer visualizes and offers some amazing shoot outs and some of the most terrifying scenes of gore and death to hit the screen in 2020. 

Abandoning the fantastical elements of Bright and the comic book escapism of Suicide Squad, he offers a hardcore and brutally violent look inside the world of modern gangland warfare. Armed to the gills with cold, calculated killers that live in their own microcosm of satanic rituals, drug use, and no respect for human life, this is a straightforward tale that doesn't let up. From beginning to end, the movie just moves at a frenetic pace with no remorse and no surrender. Characters are vanquished with no apologies. Like many of his other movies, we're never sure that everything will just be okay. In a time where our future really is questionable, Ayers penchant for leaning hard into bad guys doing bad things really works.  

I have come for your sandwiches. I'll take all your turkey and your ham. 

With an amazing cast and plot that gives Lebeouf another chance to prove his dynamic weight and presence,
The Tax Collector shines in many areas but definitely stumbles in some of its repetitive tropes. We've all experienced this tale of vengeance before. It feels similar to numerous other movies we've seen. But, the full use of Bobby Soto's dramatic skill set and LaBeouf's penchant for just doing whatever the hell he wants now sets this one apart from the pack of the dozens of online streamers we've seen since this entire pandemic started. The realism here is stark. The gun fights are extremely realistic. And the vile nature of the criminal underbelly is on full display for all to see. 

The Tax Collector seems to be getting a divided critical response. LeBeouf playing against type and going deep into character as the heavy seems to be problematic for some. Ill go the completely opposite direction and say LeBeouf is a shining star that takes the brunt of the weight and wholly carries an entire film on his shoulders. Yes, Soto is the lead player, but Shia handily steals the spotlight, taking every moment he's given to once again prove he's one of the best actors working in Hollywood today. He continues to abandon type. He is the dominant force here. Even when the script devolves into repetition, his performance is enough to make it all worth it. 

Ayer is a talented director that should consider sticking to what he does best.  His action scenes are impeccable. And he knows how to stylize something that could have been just another movie about domestic warfare. The Tax Collector is what it's supposed to be: a doom and gloom look inside the lives of modern day gangsters and their daily involvement with death and dismemberment.