Magazine article Screen International

'A Taxi Driver': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'A Taxi Driver': Review

Article excerpt

Jang Hoon has a commercial hit on his hands with this period piece about a notorious abuse of power in South Korea

Dir: Jang Hoon. South Korea. 2017. 137mins

Palpably well-crafted and acted, Jang Hoon’s A Taxi Driver casts Song Kang-ho as a cabbie who takes a German journalist (Thomas Kretschmann) into the Korean city of Gwangju in May 1980 in the middle of an uprising in which paratroopers opened fire on protesters, killing hundreds. Arrriving in Korean cinemas less than a year after citizens poured onto the streets of Seoul to protest - and eventually unseat - President Park Geun-hye, Jang Hoon’s drama seems well placed to tap into the political consciouness both locally and overseas when it opens at home and in a raft of international territories (US, UK and Australia/NZ) after closing the Fantasia International Film Festival. Further Asian territories come on line in September.

Front and centre is an excellent Song Kang-ho who repeatedly demonstrates how his presence can transform a film

The film is set during the brief time when martial law was declared in South Korea by the military government in response to growing demands for democracy. Troops were sent to major cities, but the city of Gwanju was a particular flashpoint due to its high concentration of students. Eom Yu-na’s deft script is based on a true story which took place when German reporter Jürgen Hinzpeter travelled to Gwangju to witness first-hand the reprisals.

The action starts in Seoul when cab driver Man-seob (Song) hears of an opportunity to take Peter, a German journalist (Kretschmann) down to the city of Gwangju, located in the southwest corner of the Korean peninsula. Behind in rent and evidently struggling to raise his daughter, this single father sees the trip as easy money. As soon as he hears how much Peter is paying, he sets about beating another driver to the job.

When the two draw close to the city of Gwangju, they see it has been closed off by the army. Man-seob finds a way to cross the barricades by using back roads, but they soon realise they are witnessing a massacre unfold. …

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