Writer/Director David Ayer has built a solid reputation from making crime films that take place in Los Angeles. Whether it concerns the daily lives of police officers and/or criminals, David Ayer’s gritty screenwriting and graphic directing makes for realistic stories that occur in the city of angels. From his earliest writing projects like Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day (2001) and Ron Shelton’s Dark Blue (2002), to his directing efforts in Harsh Times (2005), Street Kings (2008) and End of Watch (2012), almost every film David Ayer has had a hand in tells a story that takes place in Los Angeles. Even his most recent fantasy/thriller, Bright (2017), was an LA crime story. But, his latest, The Tax Collector (2020) promises to be the grittiest and lionhearted of them all, just from viewing the trailer alone.
The Tax Collector revolves around David Cuevas (Bobby Soto) and his partner Creeper (Shia LaBeouf) who make financial collections from notorious LA gangsters. David’s family is threatened when the adversary of his crime boss visits Los Angeles in an attempt to overturn their business. “Payback comes with interest” is the line we see in the trailer’s title card, superimposed on-screen with the Spanish hip-hop song LHNA by the Puerto Rican rapper Anuel AA and Rob GZ – an artist from the Bronx, New York. Shia LaBeouf’s character, Creeper, “Might be the devil” and from the looks of his facial expressions throughout the trailer, he’s not fooling around; especially when we see a split-second clip of him holding a drill against the chest of a gangster.
“Every gang in LA has to pay their taxes.” David says, as he and Creeper confidently stride their way into gang territory to collect funds. “You’re going to hell.” David tells Creeper, while riding shotgun. “Yeah, but I’m at peace with that.” Creeper responds, with one hand at twelve o’clock. The dialogue from the trailer hints at Ayer’s style from End of Watch, when Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena snapped back and forth at each other with witty banter. “God allows me to walk through the darkness and come back into the light.” David says to one of his victims. “You’re taxing 43 different street gangs. That’s thousands of dudes in the most violent sub-culture of Los Angeles.” Creeper warns David, while reminding the audience that this film is no joke. Writer/Director David Ayer has the tendency to authentically duplicate the dangerous reality hidden in the underworld of LA, onto the silver screen. He’s proven this with his track record of several LA crime stories and most memorably, Training Day and End of Watch.
Shia LaBeouf stepped up his commitment with acting to another level after getting over a dozen tattoos across his stomach and chest from a wide variety of parlors. His character’s name ‘Creeper’ is tatted across his abdomen and the Virgin Mary is on his chest embracing a baby clown. Throughout the trailer, he exposes his dark side while sporting a suit & tie with black shades and a thick goatee, speaking with a Latino accent from the ‘hood. It’s important to note that Shia LaBeouf’s character, Creeper, represents a Caucasian male raised in a dangerous neighborhood surrounded by gangsters from all walks of life; Filipino’s, African/Americans, Koreans, and Latinos. This is not a sly attempt by David Ayer to pass Shia LaBeouf as a Latino character. It appears as though Ayer is merely expressing the fact that you don’t have to be of Latino descent to carry a Hispanic accent when it comes to your articulation of the English language.
Shia LaBeouf’s accent in the trailer hints at an authentic Latin American enunciation of American English sentences, which should result in another powerful performance from this great actor since it’s new territory for him. Whether it’s the East Bay Area of northern California or East LA, South Bay and South Central of Greater Los Angeles, the Golden State is known for its diversity in these communities. A Caucasian male growing up in a heavy African/American neighborhood will instinctually and subconsciously develop the habits and mannerisms of Black culture through conditioning and repetition, the same way they would inhibit the verbiage of Latin/Americans from growing up in the same neighborhood as them. David Ayer’s The Tax Collector promises to be an uncompromising crime thriller filled with raw and uncensored subject matter. David Ayer courageously takes his films where most people fearfully avoid going. The realistic vibe received from the images seen in the trailer have definitely sold audiences a ticket to watch this film when it comes out on August 7th, 2020.