Taxi Driver (2021) Scamming the Scammer

I could wax poetic all day about Lee Je-hoon’s performance in this as I have here, here and here. It’s really not that hard. His efforts have been stellar all throughout revealing a knack for the comedic as well as serious creds as a brooding antihero. Of course the rest of the cast has been varying degrees of decent as well but there’s no denying Kim Do-gi’s insanely entertaining undercover efforts as he takes down big time CEOs and causes bullies to cower in fear. The level of detail that Lee Je-hoon brings to each impersonation is always memorable and humorous. It isn’t just the facial expressions, the gestures or the vocal delivery (all to keel over for) but the unique gait in which each persona is imbued with.

In the most recent episodes Kim Do-gi goes undercover as a smooth, garishly-dressed dealer in burner phones to infiltrate a voice phishing ring with the intention to reclaim monies stolen from ordinary folk. The scammers are good at what they do and they specifically avoid the wealthy but pour their energies duping the man and woman on the street for their meagre life savings. It’s a highly reprehensible endeavour and those who engage in it are the scum of the earth who prey on the vulnerable. Punishment awaits these unconscionable beasts. We hope. But only after an elaborate plot that involves a hackneyed (but ultimately effective) flirtation with the domineering Madam Lim. I have little sympathy for Mdm Lim, the ring leader, who falls for Do-gi’s charms (who wouldn’t) and the tables are turned. The trickster is now the victim of a scam. The laughs at her expense are in all likelihood relief that this is one slippery fish that’s not going to get away. Mdm Lim has met her match in the mysterious suave Wang Daojie aka Do-gi who abandons her and her accomplices to sail to an unknown destination and an unknown fate. Not before robbing her blind and returning the proceeds to the victims of the voice phishing fiasco. Robin Hood and his merry band have done it again.

Except now the prosecutor Kang Ha-na is on their tail.

Vigilantism it is safe to say is a rare phenomenon. I don’t think there’s really any danger that there be will a spike of vigilante activity after this recent spate of K drama offerings. To be involved in something like the Rainbow taxi crew involves a great deal of intelligence, resources, time and planning. It’s not that easy an undertaking. It’s far more common to find vigilantism in comic books than in real life. Even when people live under oppressive regimes (eg. the former Soviet Union and Nazi Germany), they would rather acquiesce to the status quo than rock the boat. Their survival and that of their family’s is foremost in their decision-making. It takes an individual of extraordinary vision, courage and deep concern for others to embark on such an undertaking. Most people are too consumed with their own troubles to be able to expend that sort of energy trying to help others.

There’s plenty of balance in this show regarding this sometimes controversial subject. It doesn’t condone civilians taking matters into their own hands but it also clearly points to problems inherent in the legal system that frustrate victims of crimes. Director Jang’s tenuous alliance with Baek Sung-mi is beginning to fray as the organ trafficking side of her business takes precedence over their prior arrangements. Her avarice which he relied on to gain her silence and cooperation is out of control almost leading to his death. Clearly his unorthodox relationship with Baek Sung-mi is coming back to bite him and the prospect of things turning really ugly is not too far off.

But then the law itself seems impotent against the likes of Kim Yang-jin, Mdm Lim. And when the law is ineffective, the criminal elements are emboldened and run riot doing even more damage. They think themselves above the law and continue to flout it in whatever capacity their power and resources enable them to. Ha-na can suspect and call Do-gi a criminal all she likes but the reality is that she almost broke his cover twice outside the Udata building not to mention that she also came close to losing two whistleblowers to the Udata mob. There is undoubtedly something wrong with the system as it is. If it’s broke, it’s begging to be fixed.

Vigilantism may not be the answer but then what is? Is there a middle ground to be had? Perhaps. I don’t think anyone in their right mind objects to Ha-na doing her job and vigilantism is certainly outside the bounds of the law. However her track record as it stands, isn’t great. She seems to be far better at tailing the Rainbow gang than she is doing other aspects of her job in part because they’re not actively obstructing her investigation. This is indicative of something that’s rotten at the core of the judiciary. The system is not really about justice but picking at low hanging fruit. The chief prosecutor seems especially hypocritical in his encouragement of her to pursue Kim Do-gi when he’s been stonewalling her on other cases that have involved serious criminal elements. Maybe because Jang Sung-chul is his friend that he’s being so proactive about nabbing Do-gi. Either way, it suggests to me that he’s a creature of expediency.