You know how remakes will always be inferior to the original? I still refuse to watch "The Ring" or its god-awful sequel on the grounds that I happened to catch the Japanese original "Ringu" first. Having said that, I watched "The Assassin" before I watched Luc Besson's "Nikita" so I'd probably prefer the Yankee one. Besson was one of my favourite non-American directors - "Leon" is one of my favourite films of all time - and although the great man was only writing the script, this feels very much like his film. Typically stylish, hugely commercial and still retaining enough Gallic charm to put most viewers off, "Taxi" is a mindless action thriller that is criminally under-rated in my opinion.
Daniel (Samy Naceri) quits his job as a pizza delivery boy to become a full-time taxi driver in his jumped-up white Peugeot in the sunny French port of Marseilles. Seriously, Mr Incredible has got nothing on this guy! Tragically, his short career of speeding like Satan himself around Marseilles lands him in trouble when an off-duty policeman (Frédéric Diefenthal) is picked up as a fare - the only cop who has caught Daniel. Desperate to keep hold of his wheels, Daniel is offered a deal by the cop - help him to catch fellow speed-merchants and professional German bank robbers the Mercedes Gang and the sissy cop can arrange to have Daniel's slate wiped clean. They soon form an unlikely partnership and Daniel grudgingly helps out his one-time enemy in order to get his licence back - and to stop his girlfriend (Marion Cotillard) walking out on him.
Sure, the story is as old as the hills but Besson and director Gérard Pirès have fashioned an exciting, humorous and contemporary film that still feels wonderfully silly but never any less entertaining because of it. The script is dotted with witty lines (albeit subtitled if your French is as rusty as mine) and curiously Gallic insults and metaphors that build, rather than wreck, the film's appeal. The driving scenes are superbly shot and really hit the mark - I suspect that the makers of "The Bourne Identity" watched this a few times! Acting is somewhat more varied - Naceri and Diefenthal make a pretty good team, playing off each other for laughs as well as for the requisite thrills and spills. Cotillard looks fabulously sexy as does Emma Sjöberg as the long legged German cop with a strictly un-uniform leather miniskirt. "Taxi" can be quite old-fashioned in its portrayal of female characters - the good looking ones are introduced with slow moving full length body shots! In fact, the whole thing harks back to a different era of film-making when thrillers weren't confusing, comedies made you laugh and action films actually made you gasp in disbelief.
"Taxi" is easily the best French film I've seen for some time and is so much better than the cursed Hollywood remake that it's hard to believe how much they cocked things up. My advice is stick with the original which is the surprise package, packed with humour and fast cars, sexy women and impressive action sequences. What more could you possibly want from an action film? Some things didn't quite make sense and the ending felt like a let-down but you can't have everything. If you don't mind subtitles and are prepared for something a little different then you'll probably enjoy this film as much as I did.