Director: Park Joon-woo
Cast: Lee Je-hoon, Kim Eui-sung, Pyo Ye-jin, Jang Hyuk-jin, Bae Yoo-ram
Streaming: Netflix and Prime Video
The story of a deluxe taxi driver who gets revenge on behalf of his passengers. It is based on the webtoon Deluxe Taxi by Carlos and Lee Jae-jin.
Taxi Driver 2021 K-Drama Review:
When this drama first appeared on my radar, my initial thoughts were of Robert De Niro’s Taxi Driver. It turned out not too different and the themes definitely give off similar vibes for me. Although dark, violent, and gritty, it is also ADDICTIVE, COMPELLING, and POIGNANT.
I may be late but Taxi Driver was 2021’s best and must-watch drama. Taxi Driver is based on the webtoon, The Deluxe Taxi by Carlos and Lee Jae-jin.
It’s about a team of people who work together in running a deluxe taxi service, Rainbow Taxi company, that provides “additional services” which entails a mix of rescuing people, dishing out vengeance on deserving bad guys, and delivering (street) justice – not necessarily in that order – for victims of (especially violent) crimes who have been so wronged, exploited, downtrodden and tormented to the point that they are ready to end their lives just to escape their tragic circumstances.
Every single member of team avengers carries their own chilling backstories – crimes committed against their loved ones where the perpetrators never truly received the punishment that they duly deserved, no thanks to the failings of the local police and judicial system. It is this tragic past that motivates the team to do what they do – seek justice for those who experience the same trauma that they themselves had gone through.
The drama features the general format of case-based procedurals presented in mini-story arcs which run for 2 to 3 episodes. There isn’t any overarching plot or underlying conspiracy per se but the story does evolve in the final third where the direction of the team changes course significantly.
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The world is no binary, nothing’s black and white, and there’s surely a gray area in between. And Taxi Driver picks up on the gray area in our justice system. This drama questions the difference between morality and legality.
Being the pacifist I am, I was surprised when my conscience urged me to stand with Kim Dogi in all his actions. While we root for the rainbow gang, towards the end of the drama the holes in their organization are also highlighted. The struggle faced by those who try to live within the constraints of law can also be witnessed through the prosecutor, Kang Hana.
The drama tests our limits with all the remorseless criminals who escape lawful indictment through their economic, social, and political privileges.
There is nothing I didn’t like about this drama. Taxi Driver, to some, may have been another revenge drama, but to me, it was one of those dramas that dared not only to undertake but also address some mammoth issues that sometimes overwhelmed me.
From labor and mental health abuse to significant workplace harassment, pornography, organ trafficking, thrill killers, the statute of limitations, and the biggest and hardest to reconcile the abuse of man almost lawless justice system, that was seemingly instituted to preserve the rights of the powerless victims but somehow ends up shielding the lawless and the criminals.
It’s true when they say, the only thing more hideous than crime is repressive justice. So, it’s no surprise that the issues above birthed and justified a service such as Deluxe Taxi that empowered the victims and punished the lawless as befitted their crimes.
But as sweet as revenge can get, karma is sweeter, which the drama clearly articulates at its ending. And as Jung Sung Chul (Kim Eui Sung) says, revenge only begets more revenge.
The other thing Tax Driver unquestionably articulates is that if the criminal justice system intends to represent the victims and exact revenge by the law to dissuade people from self-help. It should then correctly do its job and not trivialize those it’s supposed to protect.
Just as people should be held accountable for their actions, so should the state, because there’s a moral burden that comes from allowing heinous criminals and crimes not to be punished commensurate with their wickedness.
I commend Kang Ha Na (Esom) and her Deputy Chief Prosecutor for recognizing that. Taxi Driver’s message is that revenge is never the answer, and neither is locking up criminals and throwing away the key.
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To achieve wide-ranging criminal justice reform, society and legislators need to overhaul how they think, dispense, and talk about social justice and crime. Because, as many experts have noted, how human beings describe each other either furthers their understanding and empathy or furthers othering and dehumanization.
But what touched me most about Taxi Driver is the impactful and daring way it arrived at its final message. Everything from the system to the people who govern and are affected by it; are flawed humans, including our heroes. And that makes them more than capable of being the change they want to see.
I was surprised by both the production values and the raw grittiness being depicted. This is a quality drama that doesn’t skimp on the budget.
The action choreography of men and machines (including the number of vehicles destroyed in the process), set designs and props used, the various filming locations as well as the technical aspects of directing, cinematography, and screenplay all contribute to making this drama a top-tier production.
Verdict: Taxi Driver 2021 K-Drama Review
Revenge is Sweet but Karma is Sweeter—Taxi Driver is arguably compelling and essential viewing. As dark as its themes may be, I honestly believe viewers can glean a thing or two potentially life-saving survival skills from this drama.
This deluxe taxi service might be fictional, but the crimes depicted do not get any more real than what is seen here. I find myself rooting for the team to wreak vengeance upon these truly horrible evildoers during every episode.
Although deep down I know it’s probably morally and ethically wrong, I can’t help feeling a deep sense of pleasure and gratification from the street justice being dispensed.
Long story short, watching this drama will evoke many emotions and feelings, with nary a moment of boredom. And the best part? I absolutely love the perfect ending.
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