Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review: A TAXI DRIVER Rolls Up to Korean History with Grace, Humor and Tears


By Pierce Conran

History and commerce combine to terrific effect in the protest drama A Taxi Driver. Song Kang-ho is remarkable in his second film with director Jang Hoon, following Secret Reunion, while German star Thomas Kretschmann delivers what is probably the best performance by a major western actor in a Korean film. Despite some slight overreach in its final act, this is Korean blockbuster drama done right.

In May 1980, German reporter Jürgen Hinzpeter tires of the relative peace in Tokyo and hops straight on a plane when he hears rumors of political unrest in South Korea. Man-seob is a single father working as a taxi driver in Seoul. Behind on his rent, he swipes a big fare from another cabbie when a foreign journalist offers a princely sum to be driven down to Gwangju and back before curfew.

Afforded a prime release date in the first weekend of August, A Taxi Driver is designed to be one of the year's biggest commercial films. This means big stars, broad themes and buckets of melodrama, but what sets this offering apart from most other Korean summer tentpoles is a nuanced script by Um Yoo-na that pays attention to details and prides its characters above all.

When we first meet Man-seob, he's driving along a Seoul highway on a sunny Spring afternoon, singing along to hit-of-the-day 'Short Hair' by Cho Young-pil. A few minutes later, following interactions with customers, colleagues and family, we have a crystal clear understanding of who this character is. Having Song as your lead actor helps, but his wonderful performance here would be for naught without Um's script.

At this point we know what to expect from Song, who excels at playing the Korean everyman, combining humor and stubbornness with slight moral ambiguity. Yet while Man-seob is just that, Song's mannerisms and timing are as impeccable as they've ever been. Of course it helps to be surrounded by talented co-stars, and there's plenty of them here. Kretschmann does a remarkable job inserting himself into a Korean setting and his interactions with the local cast never feel stilted. Yoo Hae-jin, as a Gwangju taxi driver, offers comic relief with a touch a melancholy, and newcomer Ryoo Joon-yeol impresses with an endearing performance as a student protester, as he continues his path to superstardom.


Man-seob is often behind the wheel of his car yet rather than moving forward, a lot of his driving time is spent going in reverse. Early on he ends up in a protest in Seoul and backs out to avoid the commotion. Later, on his way to Gwangju with Jürgen, he has to go in reverse when military blockades prevent them from getting into the city. Visually, this backwards movement seems to reinforce his character who, initially at least, would rather avoid politics, but also reflects the struggles of the period, as there was no clear road to progress.

One of the darkest and most transformative events in South Korea's short history, the Gwangju Democratization Movement (also known as the Gwangju Uprising or Gwangju Massacre) took place for nine days when government forces mowed down students protesting Chun Doo-hwan (de facto leader but not yet president at the time), which led to local citizens taking up arms against the government. Unofficial death tolls place the casualties anywhere from 600 to 2000.

The event has also been a founding block of modern Korean cinema. Jang Sun-woo's A Petal and Lee Chang-dong's Peppermint Candy were both bold and direct in confronting the trauma caused by the event, but legions of others films also alluded to it before it was possible for mainstream films like A Taxi Driver to do so.

A Taxi Driver is far more effective and balanced than the other big-budget treatment of Gwangju, the lamentable May 18, yet it also aims squarely for the tear ducts when the time comes. It does so more tastefully but it does barrel through a few opportunities to go out in style, eventually losing its grounded realism when it indulges in an action scene that is pure fantasy. Also, for a film of its size, and despite some good production values, special effects don't quite pass muster, particularly in a few dodgy green screen roof shots and the aforementioned action finale.

With so much local flavor and detail, there are occasional moments that are bound to go over the heads of some viewers but A Taxi Driver offers a universal story of injustice filled with rich characters which is told with a character that is hard to resist.

★★


To keep up with the best in Korean film check out MKC's reviews and features, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

52 comments:

  1. Can't wait to see it! I don't want to disregard the writer and director of the movie, but solely because of Song Kang Ho is a must for me. Have been following him since I saw him in The Quiet Family and I have no doubt he's one of (if not the) best actors of this generation.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Saw it. Thought the government agent's anti-communism was a little over-the-top and stereotypical as well as politically suspicious. I got the feeling the filmmakers were promoting a pro-socialist agenda.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Really I enjoy your site with effective and useful information. It is included very nice post with a lot of our resources.thanks for share. i enjoy this post. taxi management software

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was surfing net and fortunately came across this site and found very interesting stuff here. Its really fun to read. I enjoyed a lot. Thanks for sharing this wonderful information. airport transfers uk

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sheffield Taxi A1 Taxis Sheffield is a professional Taxi Company in Sheffield that offers a superior taxi service for customers in the region. Our Wheelchair Accessible Taxis ensure that everyone can easily enter our vehicles.Sheffield Taxi A1 Taxis Sheffield is a professional Taxi Company in Sheffield that offers a superior taxi service for customers in the region. Our Wheelchair Accessible Taxis ensure that everyone can easily enter our vehicles.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Largest Membership Portal Newly Added Premium Products, PLR, Courses, Themes, Plugins, PHP, Mobile Apps, PLR Articles, Royalty Free Images yith easy login & register popup for woocommerce

    ReplyDelete
  7. Norwich Taxi Canary Taxis Norwich Book Now About us Who We Are Welcome to Canary taxi one of the largest Private Hire operators in Norwich With drivers throughout the city

    ReplyDelete
  8. news sites Worldwide Trend News Channel - Worldwide Trend News Channel

    ReplyDelete
  9. We offer Private Hire, Taxi Services and Airport Transfers throughout Milton Keynes and catchment areas, operating 24hours a day 365 days per year. Aylesbury Taxi

    ReplyDelete
  10. Kann sehr gut nicht Nutzungsgeld und Autokosten angeben. Cab Booking

    ReplyDelete
  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  13. People who have little experience with insurance policies will feel quite intimidated when it comes time for them to look for a taxi insurance quote for their taxi. However it is not necessary that taxi owners will have to waste their valuable time in the search of the right insurance quote for their taxi. They can simply go online and access different insurances using a website to look for information and choices of taxi insurance policies till they find the right one. Not only will people be able to find adequate information on varying taxi insurance policies but will find the right policy too Click Here

    ReplyDelete
  14. If you're visiting Paris for more than a few days, you may want to use a taxi. Paris Airport transfers late night trips home, or just for a splurge. But the Parisian taxi system is heavily regulated, so these tips will help to ensure that you're Paris taxi experiences don't turn into Paris taxi adventures! Read More

    ReplyDelete
  15. However it is not necessary that taxi owners will have to waste their valuable time in the search of the right insurance quote for their taxi. Read More

    ReplyDelete
  16. This is a great web page, would you be involved in doing an interview regarding just how you created it? If so e-mail me! https://downloadlagu321.live

    ReplyDelete
  17. You have seen the taxi cabs that are plying their routes haven't you? To be sure, you have ridden a taxi at least at some point in your life. While some taxi drivers make the journey somewhat more interesting than they should be, oftentimes, taxis are rather boring. Airport Taxis Weybridge

    ReplyDelete
  18. Classic car and muscle car thefts are on the rise all around the country. check out your url

    ReplyDelete
  19. buy twitch followers Video games have been around since the 1980s and since then, there have been plenty of colorful and sometimes even unusual games that have been played. Of course, there have also been plenty of twisted games that have also been hits in the gaming industry. In this article, I will talk about at least 5 of those games, including: Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, The Sims, Destroy All Humans, and Conker's Bad Fur Day.

    ReplyDelete
  20. In this present I am going on talk about the normal 35mm film, which is what the future holds, and the various sorts, the different brands, and different variables that would help disclose to you how your photos can really fluctuate (and improve) in view of the film you useProduction Videos

    ReplyDelete
  21. https://dynamichealthstaff.com/nursing-jobs-in-canada-for-indian-nurses This is a brief timeline of the history of the game design industry. It's clear to see that this is an ever-evolving industry, and one that is growing quickly.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hey what a brilliant post I have come across and believe me I have been searching out for this similar kind of post for past a week and hardly came across this. Thank you very much and will look for more postings from you. trauli

    ReplyDelete
  23. I think this is a really good article. You make this information interesting and engaging. You give readers a lot to think about and I appreciate that kind of writing. https://putlocker-live.org

    ReplyDelete
  24. I read your blog frequently and I just thought I’d say keep up the amazing work! https://soap2dayy.co

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thanks for sharing nice information with us. i like your post and all you share with us is uptodate and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job. https://yesmovies-website.com

    ReplyDelete
  26. The post is written in very a good manner and it contains many useful information for me. https://gogostream.co

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hello, I have browsed most of your posts. This post is probably where I got the most useful information for my research. Thanks for posting, maybe we can see more on this. Are you aware of any other websites on this subject. https://primewire.today

    ReplyDelete
  28. thanks for the tips and information..i really appreciate it.. https://primewire-movies.com

    ReplyDelete
  29. https://www.buyyoutubesubscribers.in/2022/01/15/top-10-most-viewed-videos-youtube-24-hours/ Many frustrated users addicted to video streaming ask this question. Although the sudden slowdown of the giant video site occurs occasionally at the user side, people are clueless what could be the cause of this problem. It is understood no body wants to wait long for videos to load and then watch them especially if the videos are longer and are in several parts. Faster streaming is the need of every internet user.

    ReplyDelete
  30. What a sensational blog! This blog is too much amazing in all aspects. Especially, it looks awesome and the content available on it is utmost qualitative. https://putlocker.quest

    ReplyDelete
  31. I can’t believe focusing long enough to research; much less write this kind of article. You’ve outdone yourself with this material without a doubt. It is one of the greatest contents. https://putlocker.work

    ReplyDelete
  32. Excellent to be visiting your blog again, it has been months for me. Rightly, this article that I've been served for therefore long. I want this article to finish my assignment within the faculty, and it has the same topic together with your article. Thanks for the ton of valuable help, nice share. https://1movies.buzz

    ReplyDelete
  33. Hey, I am so thrilled I found your blog, I am here now and could just like to say thank for a tremendous post and all round interesting website. Please do keep up the great work. I cannot be without visiting your blog again and again. https://vumoo.vip

    ReplyDelete
  34. Excellent blog! I found it while surfing around on Google. Content of this page is unique as well as well researched. Appreciate it. https://afdah.space

    ReplyDelete
  35. Keep up the good work; I read few posts on this website, including I consider that your blog is fascinating and has sets of the fantastic piece of information. Thanks for your valuable efforts. https://aafdah.org

    ReplyDelete
  36. I exactly got what you mean, thanks for posting. And, I am too much happy to find this website on the world of Google. https://currentputlocker.site

    ReplyDelete
  37. Keep up the good work; I read few posts on this website, including I consider that your blog is fascinating and has sets of the fantastic piece of information. Thanks for your valuable efforts. https://the123movies.site

    ReplyDelete
  38. Without fail, your writing style is top professional; even your website also looks amazing thank you for posting. https://123moviesnow.site

    ReplyDelete
  39. Keep up the good work; I read few posts on this website, including I consider that your blog is fascinating and has sets of the fantastic piece of information. Thanks for your valuable efforts. https://la-123movies.one

    ReplyDelete
  40. I have read your blog it is very helpful for me. I want to say thanks to you. I have bookmark your site for future updates. https://putlocker-movies.space

    ReplyDelete
  41. Very interesting blog. Alot of blogs I see these days don't really provide anything that I'm interested in, but I'm most definately interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know. https://123putlocker.website

    ReplyDelete
  42. Keep up the good work; I read few posts on this website, including I consider that your blog is fascinating and has sets of the fantastic piece of information. Thanks for your valuable efforts. https://123-movies.site

    ReplyDelete
  43. I really like your writing style, great information, thankyou for posting. https://putlockertv.one

    ReplyDelete
  44. This article was written by a real thinking writer. I agree many of the with the solid points made by the writer. I’ll be back. best car rental

    ReplyDelete
  45. Fabulous post, you have denoted out some fantastic points, I likewise think this s a very wonderful website. I will visit again for more quality contents and also, recommend this site to all. Thanks. https://movies123.win

    ReplyDelete
  46. https://www.visualaidscentre.com/lasik-eye-surgery-in-delhi/ An effective SEO strategy is as important as your own business plan, because in today's online world, a highly placed company website is as important as a prime location used to be on the high street. For something as important as this, you need a company with a variety of skills: copy-writing, development, design, usability and programming.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Hello I am so delighted I located your blog, I really located you by mistake, while I was watching on google for something else, Anyways I am here now and could just like to say thank for a tremendous post and a all round entertaining website. Please do keep up the great work. cating

    ReplyDelete
  48. This is my first time visit to your blog and I am very interested in the articles that you serve. Provide enough knowledge for me. Thank you for sharing useful and don't forget, keep sharing useful info: agen judi online dominoqq

    ReplyDelete
  49. Very neat blog post. Really thank you! Will read on...
    crete taxi

    ReplyDelete
  50. Automotive dealers need photo editing services for various types of vehicles like car, motorbike, bicycle, truck, bus, any type of four-stroke vehicle and so many. imageclippingpathindia.com/car-photo-editing-service/

    ReplyDelete
  51. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Big thanks for the useful info. 123 MOVIES

    ReplyDelete
  52. Everyone takes a taxi service as it is one of the easiest modes of transportation available today. Not all the taxi providers can offer you exceptional service as you think and you may end up with some unpleasant experiences. Naples Florida Real Estate

    ReplyDelete