Song Kang-ho takes a trip down memory lane in high summer offering A Taxi Driver, a stirring tale that revisits the atrocities committed during the Gwangju Democratization Movement of May, 1980. Under the steady hand of director Jang Hoon, the film mostly steers clear of histrionics while recent political happenings (which happened after production) have made this the must-see event of the season.
What sets A Taxi Driver apart from other Gwangju dramas is the inclusion of foreign star Thomas Kretschmann, who features as a German reporter that hires Song’s cab to take him south and cover the protests. This outsider perspective allows us to experience the unique flavor of Korean protesting, which anyone who witnessed last year’s peaceful candlelight marches to remove former President Park Geun-hye will recognize.
Throughout, the story is anchored by Song’s central performance, as he—with his inimitable mash of humor and pathos—once again masterfully conveys an average Korean man who finds himself in exceptional circumstances. Where other western actors have failed, Kretschmann triumphs in his Korean film debut, while Ryoo Jun-yeol and Yoo Hae-jin charm in key roles.
Calculated though it may be, the latest from Secret Reunion director Jang Hoon succeeds due to its stellar screenplay by Um Yoo-na, which never wavers in its devotion to its characters. Paired with a top notch cast led by Song in his element, A Taxi Driver earns the melodrama that it eventually arrives at.
Written by Pierce Conran