A cab driver and his passenger play a game of wits in Kim Joon-ha’s tense short.
“You heard about those bad taxi drivers?”
It’s apparently common knowledge that if you take a taxi drunk, you never accept anything the driver gives you. Or maybe it was common knowledge. These days, it’s almost expected that an Uber will be stocked with all kinds of random bits and bobs, from chargers to water, gum and sweets and whatever else that particular driver might want to stock their car with. Of course, drugging your passengers would definitely lower your star rating.
This is the main conflict in Kim Joon-ha’s short film A Taxi of Coldness which sees drunken businessman Seung-hoon (Baek Seung-hoon) on his way home late one night. He’s picked up by a friendly taxi driver (Maeng Bong-Hak), who offers him some gum. Immediately Seung-hoon remembers a lesson his mother told him about drugged gum and taxis, and refuses. The driver understands, recounting his own story of shady taxis, which does nothing to assuage Seung-hoon’s doubts. What follows is a taut, sharp and sometimes quite funny mini-thriller as Seung-hoon tries to figure out what this driver’s deal is.
Taking place almost entirely within the cab, the short is carried by the tense energy and chemistry both leads bring to their roles. Maeng Bong-Hak is equally charming and off-putting, forcing the audience to sit alongside Seung-hoon and try to figure out if he’s actively trying to drug his passenger or if the paranoia has simply gotten the better of the situation. It’s a careful balance that’s awfully well executed, and – being only 20 or so minutes – never overstays its welcome. The script is tight, and the editing, occasionally cutting to a flashback sequence, is blended gorgeously into the present-day action.
Sprinkled with moments of black humour that both reinforce and mock urban legends, A Taxi of Coldness manages to stay entertaining and mystifying throughout, and reminds me a lot of something you’d see in those old anthology shows. I’m only bummed that its format means it’ll be unlikely to see any wide release.
Verdict: Dark, witty and genuinely engaging, A Taxi of Coldness’ length makes it a perfect watch on any taxi ride where you don’t want to engage with the driver.
Overall entertainment: 8.5/10
Seung-hoon: Must be real fun at movies, picking stories apart like that
End credits voiceover: Wonderfully dark
How it feels to chew 5 Gum: Eesh
A Taxi of Coldness (2017)
Director: Kim Joon-ha
Writer: Kim Joon-ha
Baek Seung-hoon – Seung hoon
Maeng Bong-hak – Taxi Driver
Oh Min-ae – Mother