The Weekend Binge: "Taxi Driver"
Updated: Mar 3, 2022
Can injustice be overcome with more evil? That is the question that this thought-provoking drama wants its audience to consider. And it does so in a manner that is highly entertaining and also quite disturbing.
Jang Sung-chul (Kim Eui-sung) is the CEO of Rainbow Taxi, the legal front for a ragtag team of vigilantes who use highly-specialized skills to exact vengeance on parties that somehow manage to slip through the law's fingers. On his team are taxi driver Kim Do-gi (Lee Je-hoon), tech expert Ahn Go-eun (Pyo Ye-jin), and mechanics Choi Kyung-goo (Jang Hyuk-jin) and Park Jin-eon (Bae Yoo-ram). Among the five of them, they strategize, execute, finance, and troubleshoot elaborate plots of vengeance.
To kids who grew up in the '80s it is Knight Rider + The A-Team + Charlie’s Angels with a whole lot of Korean han (often described as Korean anger, resentment, or angst. You can read more about han here.) It’s probably the '80s soundtrack that makes me think of all those dated references. Well, that and the bomber jacket and a spruced-up car with analogue switches instead of computer interfaces.
But for non-'80s kids, it is what it is—a wish-fulfilling ride for those who read about the victims of heinous crimes and think perpetrators get off too easily.
The central figure of the Rainbow Taxi is Kim Do-gi, played with depth and sensitivity by Lee Je-hoon. One look at his grave and silent demeanor and audiences can immediately tell that anyone that determined to mete out punishment surely has some demons to wrestle. He drives a deluxe taxi and listens to the harrowing experiences of potential clients. These re-telling scenes help the victims process their experience and offer them some relief at finally being heard. At the same time, they provide the audience exposition to the back stories and the chance to confront ourselves: “Would we also turn the other cheek if we were in their shoes?” The Rainbow Taxi Company never forces its choices on their clients. In this way, the responsibility (if not the consequences) for revenge is shared and borne by all.
Hot on Kim Do-gi’s tail (pun not intended) is prosecutor Kang Han-na played by Esom. This no-nonsense elite prosecutor also wants to mete out justice—only she wants to do it by the book. As her investigations and the schemes of the Rainbow Taxi Company collide, audiences are treated into a suspenseful cat-and-mouse game that keeps us on the edge of our seats.
Apart from a great cast, good writing keeps this show (based on the webtoon The Deluxe Taxi by Carlos and Lee Jae-jin) engaging all throughout its 16 episodes. Viewers can’t even tell that there was a switch in writers midway through production. (It seems the director and the original writer parted ways when they couldn’t see eye to eye on where the drama was headed.) While the revenge scenarios are elaborate, many of the actual crimes are alarmingly plausible. In fact, a featurette at the end of some episodes explains how the crimes were taken from real events in South Korea.
All in all, the drama does not only entertain, but also allows its audience to wrestle with difficult questions, in a manner that only a well-crafted work of art can provoke.
Stream: If you have a hankering for watching bad guys get what’s coming.
Skip: If you cannot take violence. The whole series should definitely come with a trigger warning.
Available on Viu and Netflix.