Review: LaBeouf is over-committed in violent, low stakes 'Tax Collector'

Latest from David Ayer falls short of its goal

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

In "The Tax Collector," Shia LaBeouf plays a menacing Latino gangster named Creeper whose accent falls somewhere in between Al Pacino in "Scarface" and Razor Ramon. He offers up a bizarre yet transfixing piece of performance art in a film that's not worthy of his commitment. 

Writer-director David Ayer, who specializes in violent, gritty, Los Angeles-set crime tales — he wrote "Training Day" and directed "Harsh Times," "End of Watch" and, er, "Bright," which brought the worlds of goblins and mysticism to South Central LA — is on auto-pilot in this tale of a crime world turf war. Without LaBeouf's performance, it would fade completely into the background.  

Shia LaBeouf and Bobby Soto in "The Tax Collector."

Bobby Soto stars as David, whose job it is to collect a 30% tax from L.A. gangs on behalf of his uncle, Louis (George Lopez — yes, that George Lopez), so that they can continue being gangs, or whatever. Don't pay up, and answer to Creeper, a cold-blooded enforcer in darkened shades and fitted suits with a body count higher than the NASDAQ. 

All is well, or as well as can be expected given the ups and downs of the gang money collection business, until the barbarous Conejo (Jose Conejo Martin) arrives in town and decides to take over all gang operations himself. Conejo wants David on his team, and to prove it he begins killing everyone David knows and, on occasion, bathing in their blood. Sheesh, what's a guy to do?  

There's very little set-up here, other than putting the pieces in place for a bullet-riddled showdown between David and Conejo. LaBeouf makes it more interesting than warranted; you get the idea his character's unexplained cauliflower ear was his own personal touch. A better movie would have followed his character further. But this violent, low-stakes effort is just trying to make its payday and move on. 

'The Tax Collector'


Not rated: Extreme violence, nudity, sexual situations

Running time: 95 minutes