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Written by: Victoria Alexander | August 25th, 2020

THE TAX COLLECTOR may be an exaggeration by Ayer and laden with dialogue no one can understand. It’s as close as any of us are going to get to South L.A.

David Ayer’s THE TAX COLLECTOR has dredged up every agonizing antidote of star Shia LeBeouf’s  career. He refused to bathe and pulled out his own tooth during the making of FURY. Pitted alongside Robert De Niro’s weight gain for RAGING BULL and Daniel Day Lewis’s demand to be addressed as Abraham Lincoln in LINCOLN and spending months in a wheelchair and hand fed in MY LEFT FOOT, LeBeouf’s dedication to his character in THE TAX COLLECTOR has become a topic of conversation.
Why is LeBeouf ridiculed for committing to a role and going for authenticity? If actors and actresses refuse to commit to a role, it does damage the film. Nicole Kidman’s refusal to appear in character as a hardscrabble Civil War woman in COLD MOUNTAIN did not slip by historians and the audience. Kidman had perfect nails, a flawless, smug-free complexion and a wildly non-period hairstyle. How did her  character maintain immaculate grooming while working the farm singlehandedly? Charlize Theron changed the direction of her career by gaining weight, having a pockmarked face and channeling a lesbian serial killer in MONSTER.


As a “tax collector” in South L.A., LeBeouf decided his character would have two cauliflower ears and a completely tattooed chest. Instead of a makeup artist painting his chest every morning, LeBoeuf decided to spend hours at a tattoo shop. With that much dedication, how come we never saw the tattoo dominating his chest with his character’s name?

I have a theory. Director and writer David Ayer’s success with delivering brutal crime thrillers gave him the green light to make this $30 million film. For that low budget and Ayer’s perceived insider connection to South Los Angeles gangs, what could go wrong?

Ayer’s reputation was made on writing everyone’s favorite crime thriller, TRAINING DAY. So maybe Ayer did a ride-along with South L.A.’s killer-collection force? Maybe he will show us the real thing.

If you ever see a super-slim guy in a three-piece grey suit, you have been warned. Creeper (LeBeouf) and David (Bobby Soto) have been a team for a long time. Creeper has a frightening reputation while David is a dedicated husband and father. For David, working for his Uncle Louis (George Lopez) is a job – not a lifestyle.

Creeper is so feared, no one has the nerve to ask him, “Why the suit?”

For all the danger and the suitcases and barrels full of money, everyone appears to live ‘hand to mouth.’

There is no doubt that LeBeouf’s charisma and deliberate presentation of Creeper anchors the film. When LeBeouf is not on the screen, Soto’s David fails to center the film. LeBeouf, who grew up making films, knows exactly how to seize the viewer’s attention. Ayer was not going to keep his star in the shadows.

Soto should have known it was entirely up to him to craft his character and pretend to take direction. Working alongside a star means you have to realize that when they are in the scene everyone else is background. Soto should have used his solo scenes for showcasing a sexual vitality and verbal phrasing to stamp his character with traits missing from Creeper.

Creeper doesn’t need a backstory and what he does on his free time would only diminish his biological need for violence.

David is the collector and his wife Alexis is the ‘bookkeeper’ whereas Creeper is the stand aside killer. Alexis has her own backstory: she is the only one who deals with Wizard, the boss of bosses.

The success of Uncle Louis’s operation brings Conejo (Jose Conejo Martin) to L.A. He announces his intention to take over. But he admires David’s work and offers him a position in his empire. Conejo is insulted by David refusing his generous offer. When Conejo brings hell to Uncle Louis’s business, the war is on.

Conejo’s belief in the power of his prayers shows an absolute ‘all in’ commitment. Cheyenne Rae Hernandez, who plays Conejo’s tongue-swirling girlfriend, makes the most of her brief camera moments. I’m hoping Ayers modeled Gata after someone he met (and who now lives with him).

After Conejo captures Creeper, David knows he cannot go it alone against Conejo. So it’s time to call in the Macedonian phalanx – updated by the Bloods.

THE TAX COLLECTOR may be an exaggeration by Ayer and laden with dialogue no one can understand. It’s as close as any of us are going to get to South L.A.


Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, and answers every email at For a complete list of Victoria Alexander's movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes go to: Victoria Alexander contributes to Films in Review (, Film Festival Today ( and Las Vegas Informer (

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