Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 30, 2020)
Based on its title, one might expect 2020’s The Tax Collector to offer a comedy about some buttoned-down IRS agent who goes on wacky misadventures. Instead, it provides a crime drama about enforcers who work for a drug lord.
Under the direction of kingpin “Wizard” (Jimmy Smits), David (Bobby Soto) and Creeper (Shia LaBeouf) act as “tax collectors”. This means they hit up local gangs for Wizard’s cut of their ill-gotten narcotics sales.
However, Wizard’s business goes awry when he deals with Mexican rivals led by Conejo (Jose Conejo Martin). This creates a threat that involves David’s family, and he fights to protect them.
Essentially since cinema came into existence, we’ve gotten tales of gangsters and their shenanigans. Should you expect anything new from Collector? Nope, as it presents a fairly predictable and banal take on the genre.
Much of the problem comes from our lead, as David creates a dull protagonist. Sure, the film attempts to make him vaguely three-dimensional, mainly via his depiction as a “thug with a heart”.
Most of that attitude conveys via his protective nature, as he values his wife Alexis (Cinthya Carmona) and two kids over all else. We also see his softer side when he lets an embezzling gang member off the hook because the guy needs the money for his sick daughter.
However, these notions exist in plenty of other genre flicks, and Collector doesn’t bring enough personality to David to allow these notions to prosper. The film occasionally hints at other facets to his character, but it cuts these off before they can go anywhere.
For instance, David takes martial arts lessons as a form of therapy, and he also reacts poorly when Alexis admits that she initially seduced him because she hoped the burgeoning gang-banger would kill her abusive father. Unfortunately, Collector lets these potentially intriguing notions wither on the vine, so ultimately they feel like vague windowdressing and nothing more.
Honestly, Collector would become a more interesting movie if it made Creeper the lead. Not only does LaBeouf present a considerably more vivid screen persona than the one-dimensional Soto, but also Creeper simply seems like a more compelling role.
Sure, Collector paints Creeper in a semi-cartoonish light, as he presents more of a stereotypical cold-blooded “enforcer”. Still, Creeper demonstrates much more personality than the dishwater dull David, and as noted, LaBeouf offers a superior performance. Even with the limitations of Creeper as scripted, LaBeouf forms an engaging character.
I don’t want to paint Collector as a bad movie, for it keeps us with it across its 95 minutes, However, it simply fails to create a tale that brings us anything new or creative, so it fails to form into an especially strong piece.