Taxi Driver (2021) Early Impressions

Even though I made some kind of resolution to watch fewer K and C dramas this year, I've consistently manage to find something that hooks me in since the end of last year. I've seen comments around the web about crime show fatigue but I never seem to suffer from that. There's always some kind of crime show up for grabs and if I can survive the first couple of episodes, I'm always hopeful for better things ahead. This one seems to have made the cut. ;)

Prior to this drama the only one that I've seen with Lee Je-hoon was the widely acclaimed Signal. While he did well in that, it was Cho Jin-woong's drama. He was the man of the hour in that show. However, here Lee Je-hoon is the hero of the piece in a dark vigilante justice story. Apart from the fact that he's an attractive figure, he's versatile enough to be a kind of protagonist in the Mission Impossible, Batman milieu.

I hear it's based on a webtoon and that's patently obvious from the way the storytelling unfolds. Aspects of it are reminiscent of panels from a modern day graphic novel. The main character is something of brooding superhero who has a military background who has been recruited by the director of a charity for victims of crime to drive a luxury taxi that is utilized for wreaking vengeance on criminals who escape the full force of the law's purview.

We are introduced to the band of unorthodox crime fighting vigilantes with the kidnapping of a notorious sex offender who has been given early release much to the chagrin and indignation of the public. His release is given full publicity. As he makes his way to the entrance he is greeted by a rowdy mob. A mysterious taxi pulls up in front of him and he jumps in readily to avoid the media and angry protestors. When he notices that the cab isn't going the right way and persists, the sex offender attacks the driver only to be subdued quickly. The driver makes his way to a tunnel does a swap with a similar looking vehicle and goes on his merry way.

While the word "revenge" gets thrown around for the team's modus operandi, it is fascinating that the criminal is not killed but kept in a dungeon minded by a ruthless loan shark who is paid for her troubles. The director insists on reforming the inmates of his prison but we have no idea what that entails. On their tail is prosecutor Kang Ha-na who feels obligated to find the sex offender.

It isn't surprising that these sorts of vigilante justice shows have a lot of traction especially when we're only too aware the criminal justice system falls short. Also many genuine cases fall through the cracks and many of us have been regaled with stories of some form of injustice that falls outside the jurisdiction of the law. All of that of course is predicated on the fact that there is universal, common justice that transcends religion, culture and ideology.

It also isn't hard to be persuaded to go along with the vigilantism on some level when the set-up includes a horrifying case of abuse and exploitation of people with disability. The visceral nature of how these individuals are treated by their employers and the fact that a representative of the law turns a blind eye to all this wrongdoing for self-interest. Anyone with any conscience looking at that would be angry.

Of course that usually leads to the rule of law is disregarded because when individuals take the law into their own hands, they put themselves above it. They become the authority that determines how the law should be executed. There are serious moral ramifications to that because the normal restraints aren't in place.

Leverage is one of those shows that come to mind as a comparison although it's a lighter show with plenty of laughs. It's a modern day Robin Hood and compensating the victims is the goal. The cops (unless they were dirty themselves) were called in at the end to clean up the mess. Here, victims are taken care of but there's the added element of "reforming" the perpetrator whatever that looks like. In Leverage too, the problem wasn't systemic infringements of the law or direct attacks on the system. It was about individuals that were getting away with murder because of their wealth and power.