Taxi Hunter [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - 88 Films
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (18th October 2023).
The Film

Mild-mannered salary man Kin (Infernal Affairs' Anthony Wong) is expecting a child with his wife and a promotion at his insurance job, but his life is about to take a wrong turn. Shook down and intimidated into paying for fender bender caused by a taxi driver who cuts in front of him that also damages his car, he finds himself at the mercy of another taxi driver when his wife goes into labor and he has to get her to the hospital. In spite of the offer of more money on top of the fare, the driver kicks them out but his wife's skirt gets caught in the door and she is dragged and critically-wounded. When she and the child do not survive the injuries, Kin finds no sympathy from his boss and colleagues – who tell him to "leave problems at home" – and descends into alcoholism during his enforced vacation.

With nothing to do all day, he sees countless examples of taxi drivers taking their pick of fares and scamming them with long routes and toll fees until he snaps. Taking a cab home one night, he suddenly attacks the driver who tries to cheat him and stabs him to death with a broken bottle. At first frightened and guilt-ridden, Kin experiences elation at the sight of cab drivers afraid and striking in front of the police stations demanding protection. He buys a gun and starts working out, actively stalking taxi drivers as a pseudo-avenger. Complications ensue, however, when his police officer brother Sergeant Yu Chung (Iron Monkey's Yu Rongguang), his partner Mak (A Moment of Romance's Ng Man-Tat), and his partner's reporter daughter Yan (Supercop 2's Athena Chu) start investigating the killings and one of them sets themselves up as undercover bait.

Apart from one homage scene in which Kin rehearses drawing his gun with a quip multiple times, Taxi Hunter has less in common with Martin Scorcese's Taxi Driver than the more contemporary Joel Schumacher film Falling Down which was advertised as the "adventures of an ordinary man at war with the everyday world." While international audiences who recognize Wong from cinematographer-turned-director Herman Yau's more notorious subsequent Category III offerings Untold Story and Ebola Syndrome may not have a hard time seeing him as the titular taxi hunter, he had not yet won the Hong Kong Film Award for the former film (released the same year as this one) so he did not require as extensive a cosmetic transformation as Michael Douglas in the Schumacher film to be believable as a one of life's losers.

While the film depicts the bulk of the film's taxi drivers as scammers, inadvertent murderers, and attempted rapists – the one driver Kin spares is the one who does not rise to his attempts to antagonize him – and we may even sympathize with him as much as the one old lady eye witness who refuses to give a clear description to the police – the film makes it clear that while he sees himself as an avenger of the innocent, he is really only avenging himself on various drivers as a stand-in for the one who caused his wife's death who face he cannot remember. Rather than being a grim character drama, the film provides comic relief in Yu's partner Mak who has never cracked a case and action from Yu's exploits including an opening sequence where he foils a robbery and the gripping car chase finale. The finale skirts the easy way out of mob vengeance in favor of showing a police character going to extremes to act on his principles during a pre-1997 handover time when Hong Kong films could still mock the police force as being just as opportunistic as the film's cabbies.


In spite of its exploitation content, Taxi Hunter was not dubbed into English and was only available stateside as a Hong Kong bilingual laserdisc import and did not make its stateside DVD debut until 2010 and was not released in the U.K. until 88 Film's dual-territory 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray. Like 88 Films' Blu-ray of Hard Boiled II: The Last Blood, the source is described as a "High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray™ presentation in 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio" but it is overall a better transfer. It is a gritty-looking film that can look a tad blue; however, in that respect, more detail and texture is retained in the whites of dress shirts (wet, bloody, or both). On the other hand, the night sequences – exteriors and cab interiors – can look a bit flat with black hair and dark shadows just approaching crush; as such, these sequences can look striking in their broad strokes as the viewer is caught up in the height of drama but betray the gritty, non-permitted nature of the low-budget production that picked its exteriors based on a lesser amount of rubberneckers than for the best light and picturesque backdrop.


The only audio option is the original Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track in which Wong dubs himself. Apart from the opening, closing, and the first killing, the film's soundtrack is largely dialogue-driven with some supportive underscore, and the track is clean and gets the job done during the more action-oriented sequences but knows when to let the voices of Wong or Ng Man-Tat convey, respectively, gravitas or comic relief (most evident during their alternately tense and humorous exchange in the undercover taxi). Optional English subtitles are free of any obvious errors.


Extras start off with an audio commentary by Hong Kong Film expert Frank Djeng who places the film in the context of Wong's and Yau's collaborations to come, and also shocks us by revealing that in spite of the film's content it was a Category II film (a PG-13 equivalent) due to the lack of nudity, foul language, and restrained bloodshed. He notes the use of TVB actors, the debts to the Scorcese and Schumacher films, and assures us that the film is not inspired by an actual taxi killer but observations of the behavior of taxi drivers in Hong Kong during the period of the film's production.

"Hunting For Words" (28:45) is an interview with scriptwriter and producer Tony Leung Hung-Wah (Sea Wolves) who reveals that the script was the combined work of a number of contributors and that he approached Yau to be the director after their previous collaoration Best of the Best, that producer Stephen Shin lent his name to his early productions to help promote them, and that Wong believed the film was better than Untold Story and they were both disappointed when that film was the better-received work that netted Wong an acting award. He also discusses the depiction of Hong Kong taxi drivers and the reaction of the Taxi Drivers' Association during and after the production.

In "How to Murder Your Taxi Driver?" (27:06), action director James Ha (Lethal Angels) discusses his feelings about the finished film, the logistics of shooting driving stunts on location with a tendency to attract onlookers, and how women's stunts were usually performed by men but he was able to find a pair of Taiwanese sisters who were eager to learn stunt work to do the sequence where Kin's wife gets dragged by the car.

"Falling Down in Hong Kong" (17:57) is an interview with star Wong who recalls that he initially got into acting when he went to support a friend who auditioned for television but that it was not until he had worked in television for a few years that he decided to actually study acting at the Academy of Performing Arts. He notes that the film came at a peak period in his career and discusses the inspirations for the character including Taxi Driver for just that one scene. When asked about how representative the character is meant to be, he humorously responds that "My ego isn't that big," and suggests asking Yau about more analytical questions about the film (although Yau was unfortunately not interviewed for the disc.

Extras close out with a stills gallery and a Hong Kong theatrical trailer (3:51).


Not provided for review were the reversible cover with new artwork by Sean Longmore and original HK poster art or the first pressing exclusives of a double walled matte finish O-ring slipcover featuring new artwork by Sean Longmore and a double-sided foldout poster.


Apart from one homage scene in which Kin rehearses drawing his gun with a quip multiple times, Taxi Hunter has less in common with Martin Scorcese's Taxi Driver than the more contemporary Joel Schumacher film Falling Down which was advertised as the "adventures of an ordinary man at war with the everyday world; that ordinary man, in this case, being the star of Untold Story and Ebola Syndrome...


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