"Working Class Hero Battles Anti-Communist Troops"
What You Need To Know:
A TAXI DRIVER starts off with some funny, touching moments as the title character tries to deal with job problems and his daughter’s feud with their landlady’s son. Then, the movie turns serious as the extent of the oppression in Gwangju come to the fore. The change in tone is well done, but some of the acting and situations are a bit over the top. A TAXI DRIVER also has a strong, abhorrent humanist, communist worldview that contains some extreme violence, lots of foul language and stereotypes a villain as a rabid anti-communist.
(HH, CoCo, PC, B, LLL, VVV, A, D, M) Strong humanist, implied communist worldview with some moral elements about an apathetic working class hero finally deciding to take a stand against violent oppression, but movie turns the main villain into an official who’s rabidly anti-communist, so that subplot is a little politically correct and leaves a clue as to the movie’s true intentions; 30 obscenities, one GD and one light profanities; some very strong violence as people shot point blank by government troops, other people come to minister to wounded people, and they are shot too, plains clothes cop shoots one man dead and tries to shoot two others, car chase by military vehicles includes gunfire, several cars and vehicles crash; no sex; no nudity; some alcohol use; smoking; and, false accusations, oppression but rebuked, taxi driver steals another taxi driver’s fare.
A TAXI DRIVER is a Korean movie about a German journalist and a Korean taxi driver who strive to get the word out about a government massacre of citizens during a famous political uprising against South Korea’s new military dictator in May 1980. A TAXI DRIVER is compelling and brings up some important moral issues regarding oppressive government power, but it has a strong humanist, communist worldview that contains some extreme violence, lots of foul language and stereotypes a villain as a rabid anti-communist. The movie also avoids fundamental political issues, such as what kind of government system is best: one favoring a limited free market government; or, one favoring a large socialist, anti-individual government? The movie’s politically correct depiction of anti-communism is suspicious, because, like the United States, South Korea has many Neo-Marxist socialists actively promoting an anti-capitalist agenda undermining liberty.
Based on a true story, the movie opens by focusing on the life of a poor widowed taxicab driver in Seoul named Kim Man-seob. Kim is having trouble making ends meet, including providing for his daughter. Behind in his rent, Kim steals the rich fare of another taxi driver, which includes ferrying a German reporter named Hinzpeter 150 miles south to Gwangju. What Kim doesn’t know, however, is that the reporter is going there to check out reports of a major protest against the general who’s taken over the country in a coup after the assassination of the previous military strongman, President Park.
Kim doesn’t care about politics and thinks the anti-government protestors in Seoul interfere with his business. However, when he sees government troops in Gwangju beating and killing students, and then the citizens to try to minister to the injured, Kim decides to join the protest and help the German reporter get his videotapes of the massacre back to Tokyo.
A TAXI DRIVER starts off with some funny, touching moments as the title character tries to deal with job problems and his daughter’s feud with their landlady’s son. Then, the movie turns serious as the extent of the oppression in Gwangju come to the fore. The change in tone is well done, but some of the acting and situations in both the movie’s more comical parts and more dramatic parts are a bit over the top. Also, the movie’s politics seem a bit superficial in that the movie mentions no really specific issues, just the clash between the forces of “oppression” and the forces of “freedom.” The movie fails to deal with fundamental issues such as how big government should actually be.
Looking back on the movie, however, it becomes clear that A TAXI DRIVER has a Marxist, humanist viewpoint. For example, the taxi driver in the movie is a typical “working class hero,” the kind of hero you might find in a movie from the Soviet Union, Communist Cuba or Red China. Likewise, the main villain in the movie, a plainclothes FBI-type officer, is a rabid anti-communist. He labels all the protestors in the movie, and anyone who helps them, as communist agitators. His character is such a left-wing stereotype that it not only makes the filmmakers look amateurishly melodramatic, it also reveals the apparent pro-communist nature of the movie’s worldview. The movie’s depiction of this villain is a huge tip-off to the leftist ideology of the filmmakers.
That said, it is true that for decades after the Korean War, South Korea was run by a series of military dictators (starting with Syngman Rhee), who supported economic development and social order at the expense of civil liberties. The United States generally supported these men, partly out of a rightful concern about possible communist infiltration and disruption of South Korea and the rest of Asia. Eventually, however, despite economic problems under Rhee due to corruption under his rule, once the South Korean people had gained a certain amount of economic power and prosperity, South Korea’s authoritarian rule finally gave way to more democratic reforms. Of course, the communist dictatorship in North Korea was always much, much worse. The truth is that South Korea, like the United States, to this day has a problem with misguided radical leftist activists, who probably get secret assistance from the ruthless communist government of North Korea.