France 1998

Reviewed by Michael Witt


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Marseilles, the present. Pizza-delivery boy Daniel, celebrated among his peers for his unrivalled scooter skills, embarks on a new career as a taxi driver. As his passengers discover, however, Daniel's Peugeot 406 mutates - with a few adjustments - into a mean speed machine. When he's busted by policeman Émilien, Daniel is forced to cut a deal: in exchange for holding on to his driving licence, he will help Émilien snare a gang of German bank robbers.

Émilien bungles the duo's stakeout of the gang's hangout, allowing the Germans to escape. His subsequent attempts to track them by radar are foiled when the cars are driven into the back of a lorry and given a rapid respray. Having discovered that the crooks like to hone their driving skills at a local racing venue, Daniel joins them on the track for a speed contest. With the help of his former pizza-delivery colleagues, Daniel goads the Germans into a high-speed chase, finally leaving them stranded on a partly built motorway bridge. Émilien and Daniel receive medals of honour, both are lucky in love (Daniel with girlfriend Lilly, Émilien with the hitherto unattainable Petra), and Daniel realises his dream of becoming a Formula One racing driver - sponsored by the police.


Last summer's surprise hit in France, Gérard Pirès' cops-and-robbers car-chase comedy Taxi arrives belatedly in the UK with a certain reputation in tow: it drew a domestic audience of over 6 million, had high-octane panache rivalling the best of Hollywood and Luc Besson's name stamped all over it. Besson produced and wrote the film, reportedly turning out the script during pre-production discussions for The Fifth Element. Pirès, best remembered for his comedies Erotissimo (1968) and Elle court, elle court la banlieue (1972), graduated to feature film-making from shorts and television in the wake of May '68, and directed eight films before a serious motorcycle accident forced him into temporary retirement. He subsequently re-emerged as one of France's most successful directors of advertisements, notably of visually arresting car adverts.

On the evidence here, writing the script entailed for Besson subjecting his favourite US television series to a cut-and-paste process (Starsky and Hutch gets a nod, but the tone is more The Dukes of Hazzard), resulting in a compendium of familiar gizmos, plot twists and characters that unashamedly panders to aspiring boy racers everywhere. But the film is also played out through references to French comic-book and popular cop-film traditions. Henri Verneuil's Jean-Paul Belmondo vehicles are obvious precursors (the Athens-based car chase in his 1972 Le Casse comes to mind), and Claude Zidi's incomparably superior Les Ripoux/ Le Cop is referenced (or, less generously, recycled). Marseilles is shot to look like San Francisco circa Bullitt (1968), local colour reduced to the glimpses caught beyond the rapidly disappearing asphalt. A single picture-postcard view of the city is inserted presumably as a 'thank you' to the municipal authorities.

Where Godard threw similar ingredients together in 1966 and came up with the startlingly inventive Made in U.S.A., Besson and Pirès' leaden hotchpotch has the flavour of déjà vu. Where Made in U.S.A. is fuelled by a biting critique of French society and a prescient reflection on the US colonisation of the European mindset, Besson and Pirès merely tack youth-friendly clichés (institutionalised racism, police ineptitude and so on) on to the film's exterior. Granted, Pirès has done a good job on the stunts and car chases, some of them superbly choreographed at genuinely high speeds. For a film that draws freely on the French erotic comic-book tradition, the racial stereotyping and sexism come as no surprise. Besides being systematically introduced via shots of their legs, none of the female characters is more than a caricature. France's bypassing of the UK's detour through 'new man' sensibility, however, means that in this country the film can now plug neatly into a male youth market weaned on a brute 'new laddism'.

Rap-group IAM make a fair stab at encouraging the action along through the often laborious non-action scenes, then upping the tempo (and volume) appropriately for the sporadic big-bang crescendoes. The generally young cast provide a welcome injection of good-natured buffoonery into a stale film whose principal significance lies less in any intrinsic artistic quality than in the French public's acceptance of a young non-white French actor, Samy Naceri, in the lead role of a major box-office hit. But despite the film's success, which guaranteed an almost instant sequel (Taxi 2 is currently in production), nothing dispels the lingering sense that this is a lacklustre hybrid. Besson and Pirès have ended up underscoring the paucity of a cinema that contents itself with the formulaic regurgitation of the forms and aspirations of Hollywood and its televisual derivatives or of a European cinema that is - in every sense other than geographically - made in the USA.


Michèle Pétin
Laurent Pétin
Luc Besson
Director of Photography
Jean-Pierre Sauvaire
Véronique Lange
Art Director
Jean-Jacques Gernolle
©ARP/TF1 Films Production/Le Studio Canal+
Production Companies
Luc Besson presents
an ARP production
in co-production with TF1 Films Production/Le Studio Canal+
With the participation of Canal+ and the financial support of Cofimage 9 and of Studio Images 4
ARP Producers
Laurent Pétin
Michèle Halberstadt
Production Co-ordinator
Thierry Guilmard
Production Manager
Bernard Grenet
Unit Production Managers
Didier Hoarau
Guillaume Farny
Unit Managers
Franck LeBreton
Mélik Bénard
Valérie DeBeaumont
Location Manager
Fabienne Guillot
Unit Location Manager
Jérôme Billa
Assistant Directors
Stéphane Gluck
Sophie Davin
Fabien Vergez
Script Supervisor
Michèle Andreucci
Casting Directors
Winny Calissoni
Jeanne Biras
Camera Operators
Pierre Morel
Charley Recors
Digital Effects
Effects Supervisor/ Inferno Operator:
Eve Ramboz
Production Supervisor:
Annie Dautane
Post-production Supervisor:
Olivia Moreau
Digital Matte Painting:
Alain Duval
Digital Colour Timer:
Philippe Reinaudo
Special Effects Consultant
Georges Demétrau
Set Decorator
Catherine Werner
Story Board
Eric Peloy
Sandrine Langen
Sylvie Ong
Key Make-up
Myriam Hottois
Audrey Lambert
Daniel Marchetti
Music Mixer
Didier Lozahic
"Thème de Lilly" by Akhenaton, La Cosca, piano: Pierre Acourt, saxophone: Alain Guillard; "La Charge", "Immatriculations", "La Garage", "La Drague", "1ère attaque", "Taxi d'Émilien", "Les Archives", "Le Sandwich", "Apparitions allemandes", "Le Défi", "2ème attaque", "Le Permis", "Le Butin", "Alerte générale", "Dernière banque" by Akhenaton, La Cosca, "Tu me plais" by/performed by Eric Dorgal, Patient Karine, Kheops, contains a scratch from "Le Crime paye" by Lunatic; "Client aéroport" by Akhenaton, La Cosca, guitar: Kamil Rustam; "Ultime poursuite" by Akhenaton, La Cosca, scratch by DJ Pone; "La Vie de rève" by Akhenaton, La Cosca, M'sa Mohamed, Moibioi Mohamed; "Misirlou" by Nicholas Roubanis, S.K. Russell, Fred Wise, Milton Leeds, performed by Studio Patrick Abrial; "Ramble" by R. Rodriguez, performed by Studio Patrick Abrial; "Traicionera" by J. Lazo, performed by Studio Patrick Abrial
Sound/Supervising Sound Editor
Vincent Tulli
Sound Recording Engineer
Michel Barlier
Vincent Arnardi
Jacques Thomas-Gérard
Sound Effects
Jean-Pierre Lelong
Technical Adviser
Claude Abeille
Stunt Co-ordinator
Michel Julienne
Christophe Maratier
Helicopter Pilot
Jean-Claude Pruniaux
Samy Naceri
Daniel Morales
Frédéric Diefenthal
Émilien Coutan Kermadec
Marion Cotillard
Lilly, Daniel's girlfriend
Emma Sjöberg
Petra, a cop
Manuela Gourary
Camille, a cop
Bernard Farcy
Chief Inspector Gibert
Georges Neri
Guy Quang
Pizza Joe motorcyclist
Maurice Murcia
retired taxi-driver
Sabine Bail
receptionist, town hall
Dan Herzberg
Sébastien Thiery
driving instructor
Eric Berenger
the butcher
Philippe Du Janerand
airport fare in a hurry
Christophe Fesquet
speed cop 1
Gérard Vantaggioli
speed cop 2
Edouard Montoute
Tara Römer
Émilien's colleague
Christian Mazzuchini
Guillaume Lanson
Sébastien Pons
Akim, called 'Rachid'
Malek Béchar
Gérard Dubouche
Gibert's chauffeur
Richard Sammel
German 1
Niels Dubost
German 2
Franck Libert
German 3
Dominique Noé
Pierre Brichese
minister's chauffeur
Stéphan Chriz
German 4
Paul Fructus
bar owner
Grégory Knop
Denis Braccini
Bernard Destouches
roadblock cop
Emilio Martinez
cleaner, 2nd bank
Catherine Alias

Stéphane Algoud
Jimmy, key cutter
Thierry Melia
bank cashier
Jérôme Leleu
Jean Bat
Jean-François Palaccio
younger dumb cop
Henri Masini
older dumb cop
Jean-Baptiste Chaudoul
cop at traffic light 13
Paul Silve
the commissioner
Didier Gayral
man with the box
Stéphane Eichenholc
speed cop 3
Metrodome Distribution Ltd
8,078 feet
89 minutes 45 seconds
Dolby digital
In Colour
Anamorphic [Technovision]
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011