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TAXI

SYNOPSIS:
Belle (Queen Latifah) is New Yorks fastest taxi driver while Andy (Jimmy Fallon) is the city's worst driver, and least successful undercover cop. When he pursues a gang of female bank robbers led by leggy Vanessa (Gisele Bundchen), he ends up causing a giant vehicle pile up in the middle of Manhattan. That's after driving through a shopfront. Andy finds a way to team up with Belle, hijacking her cab and her love life, in his determination to nab the beautiful bandits who are serial stealing cash from the city's banks. His boss and ex, Marta (Jennifer Esposito), has to fire him, but Andy and Belle are now unstoppable.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Taxi is a good humoured and good natured escapist, buddy-chase movie with a few new tail-shakes, probably due to its French ancestry. That would explain why the bankrobbers are gorgeous, long-legged models in stilettos, for a start. Luc Besson's original, a snappy and comedic French thriller with a zany cab driver and a hapless cop, has resurfaced in English language mode - and lucky old English speakers, we. This time, Besson is producer, and he oversees a couple of other alterations: the taxi driver is female. And she's black. And she's Queen Latifah, which really blows the whole genre apart, but she keeps it together.

The new setting is New York, which is where a fantasy about driving fast through city streets is the most effective, since it's the leats likely. So is a romance between this cabbie and this undercover, underachieving cop. Luckily, there's no such thing. But there is a well restrained and surprisingly satisfying romantic subplot involving Belle and her beau, the coffee-dunked hunk, Jesse (Henry Simmons).

But Taxi is, above all, a fun vehicle: and the vehicle she drives is purry funky, too. It's a New York Yellow, but she's busted her ass for five years to not only make it look great. It's seriously accessorised, with things like a titanium super charger and other gizmos that transform the Yellow into a racing super-hot-rod at the flick of half a dozen switches beside the driver. Even the number plates change. As they should.

Saturday Night Live's Jimmy Fallon tackles his first feature film lead role as Andy Washburn with an appealing combo of nerdy haplessness and vulnerability, with a touch of something akin to reluctant self assurance for balance. In fact, there is a touch of Maxwell Smart about him which is endearing.

Queen Latifah, the always credible and audible singer/actress and music corporation boss, powers up her performance with the same supercharger as her car. She's big and funny one minute, a purring pussycat the next, as she tries to appease Jesse for always breaking their dates.

Jennifer Esposito is great as Andy's ex, now a Lieutenant at the 8th Precinct, who has the pleasure of firing Andy after a series of bungles that include a massive pile up caused while he attempts to stop traffic on the way to a robbery. This robbery by four supermodel types (Gisele Bundchen, Ana Cristina De Oliveira, Ingrid Vandebosch and Magali Amadei) is but one in a series - as are Andy's accidents.

It's a snappy script, and director Tim Story handles the numerous car chase sequences and stunts with great skill and attention to detail, giving us a taste of speeding through New York. He also makes the film accessible and enjoyable by staying true to the story and letting the characters create their world without labouring things too much. Grab a cab and catch this Taxi.

Review by Louise Keller:
Brake screeching fun, Taxi combines wild car chases with hilarious, lively banter between Queen Latifah and Saturday Night Live's Jimmy Fallon, as they join forces pursuing a gang of four ultra-glamorous bank robbers. She plays a speed-crazy taxi-driver who dreams of being a racing car driver, while he plays an over-zealous good cop who is a very bad driver. A reworking of Luc Besson's 1998 film (he also produced this film), Taxi relies on the crazed chemistry between Latifah and Fallon plus the thrills of non-stop speeding action through the streets of New York.

Definitely not intended for those who get motion sickness, the opening sequence sets the pace, as Latifah's Belle sets records weaving in and out of traffic, doing Olympic-style gymnastics, on a bicycle. It's the eve of her retirement from riding a bike - just as well, she has scored 72 offences - and no-one could be more excited as she unwraps her farewell present - a titanium supercharger. Her love for all-things mechanical takes priority over her relationship with her attentive beau (Henry Simmons), whose repeatedly thwarted attempts to pop the question become a running gag through the film.

Belle's spanking new, shiny yellow cab is like a James Bond prototype: faster than a speeding bullet and complete with interchangeable Formula One steering wheel, spoiler, sports air vent. The licence plates can be switched at the flick of a lever, too. We know what will happen as soon as Belle steps on the pedals to zooms through peak hour traffic at manic rate, but of course, her first passenger does not. He is keen to get to JFK airport in record time, and the look on his face, as he is thrust from side to side and against the dividing glass panel, is priceless.

Latifah and Fallon make a great high energy team that tumbles from one comedy of errors to the next. It's odd-couple pairing that works, as they are forced together by mutual need. Washburn even gives Belle tips on relationships ('men are like cats after a ball of yarn') and I especially enjoyed the scene when Belle delivers a pep talk that is, in fact, an unofficial driving lesson. 'Play to your strengths - thinking is not one of them,' she says. Washburn's eccentric mom who is never without a blender-size Marguerita, is a lot of fun, as played by Ann-Margret, and never have bank robbers been as glamorous as the shapely, leggy, foursome, led by supermodel Gisele Bundchen. These gals make anything look easy, as they change tyres, drop their suits for bikinis and convert their red BMW into a dark blue one, as quickly as peeling a banana. Look out for the scene when Bundchen conducts a body search on Jennifer Esposito's Lt Marta Robbins, with everyone watching.

The final climactic three-car car-chase involving exchange of hostage and bank roll at high-speed is worth waiting for, bringing plenty of tension and thrills. Taxi is a mad-cap ride you don't want to miss.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

TAXI (M)
(US/France)

CAST: Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon, Jennifer Esposito, Henry Simmons, Gisele Bundchen, Ana Cristina De Oliveira, Ingrid Vandebosch, Magali Amadei, Ann-Margret

PRODUCER: Luc Besson

DIRECTOR: Tim Story

SCRIPT: Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, Jim Kouf (original screenplay by Luc Besson)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Vance Burberry

EDITOR: Stuart Levy

MUSIC: Christophe Beck

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mayne Schuyler Berke

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 4, 2004

UPCOMING EVENT
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney.

Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.







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