I’m probably not exaggerating when I say that I was beyond excited for Lee Je-hoon‘s drama comeback following his last starring role in Where Stars Land (2018) three years ago. His new drama is extra special with its dark hero theme, thrilling action scenes, and nerve-wracking action sequences. I could feel every fan’s anticipation before the premiere, especially since Lee Je-hoon’s last crime thriller Signal (2016) was both a local and international hit. That show is credited with making a mark on every cast member’s career, specifically Lee’s, and I can’t wait to see where another crime thriller takes him.
Taxi Driver centers on a private taxi company called Rainbow Taxi Company that runs a mysterious underground operation—taking revenge on behalf of their customers, who tend to be abused and mistreated. It’s similar to calling a hotline to place an order, but instead of chicken and dessert, the callers are served cold revenge on the plate of their abuser’s downfall.
Lee takes center stage as Kim Do-gi, the operation’s main agent who hunts down criminals. While carrying out his missions, he is supported by a team comprising of skilled hacker Ahn Go-eun (Pyo Ye-jin) who serves as his eyes and ears while on the road, Choi Kyung-goo (Jang Hyuk-jin) and Park Jin-eon (Bae Yoo-ram) as the engineer duo in charge of his taxi’s maintenance and preparing everything beforehand, and Jang Sung-chul (Kim Eui-sung) as Rainbow Taxi Company’s ruthless CEO who hands out the revenge missions.
While the concept of Taxi Driver is not entirely new, the approach is refreshing—there is something unique about a company that fulfills orders for revenge. The screenwriters have successfully made this concept the story’s backbone.
As a former special forces officer, Do-gi is at the center of every mission, given his fighting skills, meticulous driving, and quick decision-making abilities. Unlike other anti-hero characters who try to justify their misdeeds, Do-gi does not consider himself heroic and righteous. Rather, he embraces his dark side that is bloodthirsty for any kind of revenge that he can get his hands on. By the second episode, we see that his bloodthirst is motivated by his own mother’s brutal murder. This drives him to blind heroism, masked by the intention to avenge those ignored by the law and society.
Do-gi sees his mother’s killer in every abuser he chases, which fuels his anger even more. Every time he asks criminals their intentions behind their crimes, it’s as if Do-gi is looking into the eyes of his mother’s killer, asking why his mother was killed. CEO Sung-chul seems to be aware of this and exploits Do-gi’s deep-rooted anger to put his plans into action.
Sung-chul wants to reform the society that favors the rich and influential and turns away the poor and the weak. From his standpoint, it’s a noble legacy, and Sung-chul has no trouble getting anyone on board. Whether Do-gi is aware of Sung-chul’s exploitation is still unknown, as well as the other characters’ reasons for joining Sung-chul’s vigilante operation.
Lee Je-hoon as Do-gi is quiet and mysterious, avoiding talking to the passengers and limiting his interactions with the other characters as well, so it is difficult to get a handle on his personality. Lee’s deep voice intensifies the mystery surrounding Do-gi to create an immaculately silent, brooding, and extremely unpredictable character. It is to the extent that I can’t see anyone else playing Do-gi. For a main character, he sure has lesser lines than his co-stars, but his screen time and heart-stopping action scenes make up for it, along with the dark sunglasses and stylish coats he sports whenever he goes on a mission.
While Do-gi and his rogue team operate on the dark side of the law, there is another character who narrates the visible and legal side of justice-chasing—the lawyers, prosecutors, and the police. Kang Ha-na (Esom) is an elite prosecutor who is as tenacious and justice-hungry as Do-gi. She is the only one who manages to keep up with Rainbow Taxi Company, quickly latching on to the group’s activities despite their best efforts to mislead and confuse. Her first fateful encounter with Do-gi proves to be a climactic scene, so I’m guessing the screenwriters have some exciting cards to pull from their sleeves when it comes to the two of them. It remains to be seen if they will join hands as allies or be at each other’s throats as enemies.
I know I’ve waxed eloquent about Lee Je-hoon’s acting skills, but I can’t stress what a great job the production did by casting him. He can carry the whole show by himself with his few lines—that’s how impressive he is. In one throwback scene, he stood quietly in the midst of a rowdy crowd behind the police with his eyes dead set on the man who took his mother’s life. He did not say anything, but I could feel his agony from restraining himself from attacking the criminal like a wild beast. No lines, no movements, just pure emotional acting. When he finally grants himself the liberty to attack by disarming the policemen, his eyes were so full of rage that anyone could feel it through the screen.
The first week of Taxi Driver features a promising storyline, intriguing crime narratives, creative exploration of anti-hero characters, fast-paced execution, and an excellent cast. It was able to deliver entertainment to hype up the main plot, something that not all thriller dramas can successfully do. Fingers crossed the next episodes will be as impressive as the premiere!