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Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Man & His Taxi: Debra Markowitz's Directing Debut "The Last Taxi Driver" Trades Flesh Eating For Funny

"THE LAST TAXI DRIVER" (2014)
Genre:  Horror/Comedy
Length- 14:19
Company: The Majors Productions
Website: Official

Dorman O'Mearain (Robert Clohessy) refuses to let a little thing like the zombie apocalypse stop him from pursuing the American Dream of operating his own taxi business.  He spends his days dodging zombies and getting people from point A to point B without being eaten.  The thing is, the zombies are getting smarter, and they've set up centers for survivors.

Sounds benevolent enough, right?  Well, our protagonist isn't quite so sure, but his latest customer, Violet(Emily Jackson) has her own opinion . . .

ZOMBIES 1, HUMANS 0

The zombie genre has been done to death (pun intended) several times over, and innovative directions for such a story are getting harder and harder to find.  That being said, "The Last Taxi Driver", writer Debra Markowitz's directorial debut, manages to find a humorous niche in the ever expanding canon of undead mischief tales.

The film's production values are stellar throughout, and the acting is solid, particularly from Clohessy.  The taxi driver is horribly sex deprived (a state which I doubt has much to do with the zombie apocalypse, actually) and continuously disrespected by the public at large, zombies and living humans alike.  He's an "over the hill" character whose best days are unquestionably behind him, but who soldiers on anyway in a pursuit of some kind of meaning, even if it's just the meaning of being good at what he does.

FOLLOW YOUR BLISS

The story unfolds with a very funny client named Sybil (played by Kick Ass's Deborah Twiss) who freaks out on the taxi driver's lame attempts at being the sort of man who can take charge and help, what he perceives, as a beautiful damsel in distress.  It's a role that could have easily gone off the deep end and been utterly unbelievable, but Twiss handles it capably.

The story is fun and the laughs are peppered throughout the movie, but that doesn't change the fact that as a whole the film feels slow.  That's part of Markowitz trying to convey how this taxi driver's life is now painted in two shades: utter boredom and the complete terror of being surrounded by zombies.  That's all there is to his life, and he soldiers on as a taxi driver, a role that is quickly becoming more and more irrelevant.  He's heroic, in a strange way, and that made me care about what happened to him.

My only real beef with the story is that the gravity of the final scene with the taxi driver and the second client did not feel as life threatening as it should have.  I don't want to spoil anything so I won't say more than that.  It doesn't ruin the film by any stretch of the imagination, and the coda of the film was a good mix of darkness and comedy.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3 / 5.  For what Markowitz was going for, the story delivers and it works.  I did feel the pacing was a little slow, and the finale didn't feel urgent enough.
Directing: 4 / 5.  Markowitz's camera work is confident.  I much appreciated the long shots -- they build a whole lot more mood than the sort of quick cutting that has become associated with zombie films as of late.
Editing: 4 / 5.  The film looks great and the color grade is top notch.  This film could easily play theatrically and come out on top.  I'm not reducing the score for the slow pacing, as I'm calling that a writing problem, rather than an oversight in the cutting room.
Sound/Music: 3 / 5.  Taylor Bradshaw's score is understated -- so much so that I don't remember anything in particular that stuck out.
Acting: 4 / 5.  Great acting all around, with Clohessy and Twiss emerging as the finest thespians.  Vincent Ticali does a good job in the first scene as the serious looking President announcing how dangerous the zombie apocalypse has become.

Final Grade: 3.6 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "The Last Taxi Driver" and follow writer/director Debra Markowitz on Facebook! 

While the film is currently on the festival circuit, as soon as it's available online to watch, I'll post it here!



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!