Taxi is a 1998 action comedy about a newly qualified taxi driver Daniel who has dreams of being a racing driver but instead ends up on the wrong side of the law by breaking the speed limit several times over with a copper in the back of his souped-up cab. But rather than losing his license, Daniel is instead offered a deal; he can get off the charges by helping officer Émilien capture some brazen, Mercedes-driving bank robbers, putting both his knowledge of high-performance cars and incredible driving skills to good use in the process.
The idea that Daniel likes speed is set up during the opening credits with a record-setting wild moped ride through Marseilles on his last day as a pizza delivery rider, but it’s the first outing in the heavily modified Peugeot taxi where things really take off. A desperate-looking passenger offers a wodge of cash to reach the airport in time for his flight and, after a flick of some switches and change of steering wheel, the now transformed taxi gets him there with time to spare even if his lunch barely makes it to the destination with him. The car transformation is reminiscent of Knight Rider’s later episodes when KITT switches to super pursuit mode – in fact, I think some of those same sound effects are used here too – which was always a favourite moment for me as a teen.
One of the people behind Taxi is writer Luc Besson – probably better known for his action movies such as the Transporter series, The Fifth Element and the fabulous Taken – and, although the story is more light-hearted overall than those examples, it’s also engaging, with most of the main characters either being likeable – even the bungling Émilien who is, essentially, a blackmailer although his heart isn’t really in it – or cringe-inducing like the almost constantly ridiculous Commissaire Gibert.
The DVD can be picked up cheaply since there regularly seem to be copies of the subtitled widescreen version in charity shops or second hand stores like CEX or Cash Converters for under a quid. I purchased the dubbed, 4:3 ratio version where these screen grabs came from for a paltry 50p yesterday, but after so many passes at the subtitled French original it feels a little surreal, in part because the voices have English rather than American accents I sort of expected. If anyone is tempted after reading this, it’s also worth being a little cautious when shopping for the disc since there’s an American remake starring Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon which copies the original film’s plot relatively closely but is nowhere near as good on the character interaction or development fronts.