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Shia Lebeouf and Bobby Soto in The Tax Collector

David Ayer's most recent films have been full of fantasy of one kind or another with Suicide Squad and Bright, but before that, Ayer made a name for himself making gritty crime movies set in Los Angeles. Those movies have been generally well regarded so The Tax Collector starring Shia Lebeouf and Boby Soto might feel like a homecoming of sorts. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that many critics are going to be putting The Tax Collector alongside films like End of Watch in the Ayer pantheon of great crime flicks.

Shia Lebeouf and Boby Soto play a couple of guys running a protection racket in Los Angeles who have to deal with others trying to move in on their territory. It's certainly a premise we've seen before, though that doesn't mean that The Tax Collector couldn't find a fresh take on the material. However, according to THR, David Ayer really doesn't do that here. The film's fatal flaw is that it all feels familiar. There's nothing here we haven't seen before.

Ayer drives the action along efficiently enough to the churning dread of Michael Yezerski's score. But there's too little depth to make you care about the characters and too little imagination at work to make The Tax Collector pay.

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Much of the pre-release buzz surrounding The Tax Collector circled around the character of Shia Lebeouf, who, it appeared, was supposed to be playing a Latino character in the film. Director David Ayer clarified that LeBeouf's character is actually a Jewish kid who grew up on the streets and has largely assimilated the culture. However, Indiewire didn't find those details to be obvious in the final film, making the character still problematic. While that review does largely praise Bobby Soto's performance, it finds the rest of the film so rough that it becomes difficult for Soto to do much with what he has.

Trapped between an offensive sidekick and a two-bit villain, Soto can only do so much to give his conflicted anti-hero some genuine emotion, but he works pretty hard in the only substantive performance on display.

And for the most part, the other responses to the films have been largely similar. Freelance critic Matt Passantino was echoing the feelings of many in saying that the idea of another David Ayer crime story was an exciting prospect, but this one never works...

I was excited for David Ayer to return to the mean streets of LA but The Tax Collector is a dud start-to-finish. Cliches, stereotypes and plain old boring.

And Next Best Picture basically sums up every other review of the film so far in a single sentence. And then adds that apparently, we could see more of this if the movie is successful.

The Tax Collector claims it’s about love, honor, loyalty & family but all I see is lifeless, horrific & bloody misogyny. David Ayer fails to inject the film with any sense of style or originality. Ends with a 4th wall breaking shot which sets up a sequel that I hope we never get.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like The Tax Collector was the movie anybody was waiting for. The movie will be available via VOD beginning August 7.

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