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Is The Tax Collector a True Story?

August 7, 2020
3 min read

Starring Bobby Soto and Shia LaBeouf, ‘The Tax Collector‘ follows the story of two men who work for a drug lord. Their job is to collect his cut from the local gangs, and keep the money flowing. However, the balance of their life is upended when an old rival of their employer returns with his own plans about the power structure in their territory. The film focuses on the brutal and bloody side of the gang wars and how one change can completely overturn one’s standing in the criminal world.

The story is told in a way that reflects a semblance of reality to it. Apart from the danger and cruelty of the criminal world, the story also focuses on the personal journeys of the characters. With so many recent films and TV shows about crimes, especially drug business, based on true stories, we wonder if ‘The Tax Collector’ has its roots in real life as well? Is it based on a true story? Let’s find out.

Is The Tax Collector Based on a true story?

No, ‘The Tax Collector’ is not based on a true story. It is based on an original screenplay written by David Ayer, who has also directed the film. Though it is not based on any real characters or true events, the director did take inspiration for some parts in the film from his own experience, while also adding the episodes from the lives of some cast members.

In the movie, we meet a character named Conejo. The actor, Jose “Conejo” Martín, who plays the role has known Ayer since he was nine years old; they grew up in the same neighbourhood. The movie uses his personal story to give meaning to his character on the screen. “I’m from 22nd and Catalina, he’s [Ayer] from 24th and Budlong. We go back,” he told The LA Times. Martín had been on a run from the law for years before he was extradited to the US from Mexico. He was released from prison in 2018, which is when he became a part of ‘The Tax Collector’.

While the film focuses a lot on violence and bloodshed, the reason it has received flak from the critics as well as the audience is for Shia LaBeouf’s character, Creeper. The film never mentions his background or his ethnicity, which Ayer explained as: “To me, it was so obvious and known and it didn’t occur to me.” However, the viewers took it as an act of brownfacing, where a Latino character is being played by a non-Latino actor. For the Twitter backlash that he received, he also clarified his stance in numerous tweets, one of which reads, “I grew up hood and I’m a white boy. Chicano culture is inclusive. I’ve seen whiteys, Asians, Blacks, Filipinos all putting in work for the hood. It’s part of street culture.”

The presence of a white character in a Latino neighbourhood wasn’t an alien concept to the director, who grew up with a similar mix of ethnicities. “I’m used to being the only white boy,” Ayer said to Variety. “Con la gente que cuenta [with the people that count], I’m good. … I’ve always kept this to myself. It’s my private life.”

As for the knowledge regarding the crime world, especially the drug cartels, he drew inspiration from his time in a small town outside Culiacán in Sinaloa, Mexico, where he got “an understanding of transnational narco culture.”

Read More: Where to Stream The Tax Collector?

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