The fourth Taxi film (T4XI) came out 5 years ago but I have only just seen it. I thought the first film was brilliant and only recently re-watched all of the first three films but I had been put off seeing the fourth one. A large part of the hesitatance was that Taxi 2 was a bit more ridiculous than Taxi and then Taxi 3 was even more batshit crazy. After seeing Daniel customise his taxi to take flight andswap over to caterpillar tracks for travelling on snow I worried that Taxi 4 would be a leap too far, with the car being pimped to travel in space or something.
There was also the small matter of disillusionment after discovering that Samy Naceri, who appears so likeable in the films, had a string of run-ins with the law after substance abuse, road rage, assault, racial abuse and attempted murder.
And then I saw that it was available for about four quid on Amazon and decided that I might as well complete the set, and I’m glad I did.Maybe it was just that I had such low expectations, but Taxi 4 turns out to be a really good film, even though it doesn’t actually feature much of the breakneck driving of the other three films. That is a good thing. When all the major criminal gangs drive a set of identical (non-French) cars and can only be caught after a long chase it all gets a bit contrived.
It turns out that the hair-raising car chases, although they feature heavily in the other films, aren’t actually the key to the films’ appeal that one might have assumed. Instead it is the characters that have built up over the series – the well-meaning but useless Emilien, Daniel’s bonkers father-in-law General, Bernard Farcy’s increasingly Clouseau-esque Commissaire Gibert, and the rest of the Marseilles police department.
I guess that a lot of the humour comes from knowing the history of these characters and spotting the running jokes, like the speed radar incidents that appear in all the films and Gibert’s habit of yelling “Alerte générale!” at every opportunity.
The police station has always been a palace of ineptitude but in Taxi 4 it becomes apparent that it is proper, established, institutional ineptitude. Petra is the only competent copper. The rest spend their time playing boules, and smoking enormous spliffs supplied by ‘Marley’ who is presumably in the drugs squad. Their interrogation technique consists of thumping prisoners with all the French telephone directories in order of département, and they can’t go anywhere without at least one squad car getting written off.
Despite all this the French government lets them loose with all manner of new gadgetry, often untested, and allows them to carry guns.
Despite my initial misgivings I really enjoyed this film and think that the producers would have been better off going in this direction for the other two sequels and spending a bit more time on the plot, characters and humour than on increasingly unlikely gadgets for Daniel’s taxi. With a bit of development in those directions this franchise could have been a decent competitor to the Pink Panthers. Having said that, they should have just reduced the amount of high-speed action rather than practically eliminate it, but overall it works for me.
If only this latest (last?) film in the series had featured the gorgeous Marion Cotillard who was the only main character missing, presumably lost to Hollywood now. She remained an offstage presence, away on a decorating course in Paris as part of her campaign to redecorate the house in such a way that Daniel has to keep his Peugeot outside rather than in the living room.
This film, and the previous ones, show that French films don’t all have to be beard-stroking existentialism laden with meaning; they can just be entertaining. It is not big and it is not clever, but absolutely worth watching. Unfortunately it is best appreciated after seeing the disappointing Taxi 3. Maybe hold out for a cheap box set release of all four? Given Naceri’s growing criminal record I suspect this will be the final Taxi film so a box set must be about due.