A Taxi Driver (2017) [Taeksi Woonjunsa]


Cast includes: Kang-ho Song (Snowpiecer), Thomas Kretschmann (King Kong), Hae-jin Yoo (Pirates), Jun-yeol Ryu (Glory Day)
Director: Hun Jang (The Front Line, Secret Reunion)
Genre: Drama | History | Action | Humor (137 minutes) Korean with subtitles


Huffington Post

In 1980, being a taxi driver in Seoul is a real challenge… there are protests everywhere. After 18 years of dictatorship, there was hope for democracy… until the military coup. “No more martial law,” the signs read. “Those bastards should be shipped off to Saudi Arabia. Then they’d realize how great they have it,” says Kim… he has no sympathy for the protestors. [Backstory to come] All he knows is traffic is a mess, and he can barely eek out a living… if you call being 4 months late on the rent earning a living. In the meantime, Peter, a reporter for German Public Broadcasting has been in Tokyo for 8 years, and he’s beginning to find life “too comfortable.” When he hears about something going on in Guangju, South Korea, he gets on the first plane to Seoul. His friend tries to warn him against going. “No press allowed. Something doesn’t feel right.” All the better to spice up a dull existence!

“You’re pathetic,” Kim’s friend tells him. Kim even tries to borrow 100,000 won from his friend to pay the rent… ironic, considering that the friend is the landlord’s husband. Friends tend to cut Kim some slack because he’s a widower with a young daughter to raise. [Backstory to come] When they overhear a taxi driver bragging about a job he’s been booked for… 100,000 won to drive some “foreign idiot” to Guangju… Kim grabs his friend’s keys, hops in his taxi and takes off to meet the idiot… before the real taxi driver shows up. The assignment is to drive Peter to Guangju and back before curfew. “What an idiot.” “Speak English?” “Of course. Live Saudi Arabia 5 years. You Korea first time?” Peter isn’t impressed with Kim’s English or his driving and tells him so, speaking far too fast. “I can English. Slow.” By the time Kim realizes what a bad idea this is, it’s too late to turn back. Getting past the roadblock seems like a challenge, but that will turn out to be the easy part of the trip. Students in Guangju are happy to see a western reporter with a camera… someone needs to show the world what’s going on in Guangju.

“Be very careful. The government does not want you here. If they find out you’re here, they will hunt you down… and the people helping you.” This isn’t what Kim signed on for. All he wants is to raise his daughter and be able to pay the rent. Based on actual events, A Taxi Driver tells the story of a pair of unexpected heroes and the many people who helped get the truth out. Kang-Ho Song is wonderful as the comical sad-sack taxi driver who morphs into a touching and reluctant hero. This film has everything, from humor to tragedy to a dramatic, bizarre chase scene. The Guangju uprising is an important moment in South Korean history, when hundreds died in an uprising against the Chun Doo-hwan military coup. This film captures it beautifully. At more than 2 hours, there isn’t a dull moment. Kim has several opportunities to leave Peter to his fate… and why not… Peter has been kind of a jerk the whole time. But every time, something pulls him back. Eventually, their relationship comes down to one simple idea… “You are customer. I am taxi driver.”

popcorn rating

4 popped kernels

A reporter and his taxi driver capture evidence of government lies and expose the truth

Popcorn Profile

Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Art House & Small Screen
Mood: Sober
Tempo: Zips Right Along
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism 
Nutshell: South Korean uprising
Language: True to life

Social Significance: Informative

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