Taxi (1998) – Gerard Pires

 

The 101 Action Movies list brings this highly enjoyable French film to my attention. Please don’t confuse this hugely entertaining film with the rather pathetic 2004 North American remake. This one is fun, fast, and has some great sequences. You can see the seeds for Luc Besson’s later creation of The Transporter series in this film that he wrote and helped produce.

Daniel (Samy Naceri) is a recently retired motorbike pizza delivery driver, he’s finally moving to 4 wheel vehicles, and has acquired his taxi licence. All he wants to do is drive, make some money, and spend some time with the lovely Lily (Marion Cotillard).

Unfortunately, fate has other plans.

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Driving impaired cop, Emilien (Frederic Diefenthal) is dropped into his life.

Emilien has failed his driving test 8 times. He’s looking to impress a fellow officer Petra (Emma Wiklund), and is mired in a police investigation that is trying to stop some rather bold bank robbers.

The Mercedes Gang, a group of Germans, is so confident in their abilities that they let the police know where they’re going, daring them to catch them, but with their driving skills, and their planning, they are able to stay laps ahead of the police.

When Emilien catches Daniel speeding, via a ride in the back seat, he comes up with the idea of using Daniel and his customized Peugeot to outrace and catch the villains.

The plot is fairly simple, but there’s a lot of fun to be had in the film with some amazing driving and car work. There is also a nice repartee between Emilien and Daniel.

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It also goes without saying that Cotillard looks stunning as always, though I wish there had been more of her in the film. She’s always fantastic to watch.

As the story moves on, Daniel saves Emilien’s life, races the Mercedes Gang, and helps plan their final entrapment.

The final chase sequence is a high-velocity race through and around Marseilles, ending on an overpass construction site with a brilliant moment that made me laugh aloud.

The first encounter with the Mercedes Gang ends up in a huge mutli-car pile-up and a huge shoot-out, which ends hilariously when both sides realize what’s going on.

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But the thing of most note, is the fantastic camera-work that goes into the construction of the chase scenes, intercutting with reactions shots, one-liners, and flashes of vehicles through the frame, Piries creates a speedy, highly enjoyable popcorn romp that is wonderfully entertaining.

The film went on to inspire three sequels, and of course the rather insipid remake, but this one is the one to watch. It doesn’t take itself too seriously (Daniel’s Peugeot transformation is a prime example, or Emilien’s gunfight in the garage), and it looks fantastic.

This one kind of revitalized the car-chase movie, leading to the next one on the action movies list, as well as the Fast and the Furious series, which also gets a visit shortly.

What is your favorite car chase in a movie?

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