K-drama Taxi Driver season 2: Lee Je-hoon and co return for another round of smooth and satisfying vigilante thrills

K-drama Taxi Driver season 2: Lee Je-hoon and co return for another round of smooth and satisfying vigilante thrills
  • Two episodes in and season 2 of Taxi Driver is off to a great start, with Lee remaining a strong lead as fighting machine Kim Do-ki
  • Part of Taxi Driver’s charm is the way it attenuates its dark real-world issues with its bouncy action style and the cool camaraderie within its cast

Two years after first driving onto our screens, Kim Do-ki and the Rainbow Taxi Company are revved up and ready to go again in a brand new set of episodes of the hit vigilante action K-drama Taxi Driver.

Lee Je-hoon is back as the aforementioned driver in black, as are Pyo Ye-jin, Jang Hyuk-jin and Bae Yoo-ram as his teammates, and Kim Eui-sung as the outfit’s boss.

Though it was never a quaint show to begin with, Taxi Driver 2 ups the ante with an opening brace of episodes that include a jail break, a flipped over bus and an action-packed mission to Vietnam. If the season begins as it means to continue, clearly we have much to look forward to over the next two months.

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Even more so than other examples of the current vigilante drama trend, Taxi Driver has its finger on the pulse of the anger and anxieties of Korean society. It manages to do so through its episodic structure, which sees the Rainbow crew tackle new foes every weekend, many of them modelled after instances of crime and corruption that have recently cropped up in the news.

Leading with its topical nature, season two begins with a news montage and the first item concerns a worker who died while operating machinery in a factory.

This is a direct reference to an incident that took place in South Korea’s Gyeonggi province in October 2022, when a young worker was pulled into a sauce-mixing machine and not discovered until the following day. Paris Baguette, the bakery chain connected to that factory, came under fire for human rights violations and many began to boycott its stores, and continue to do so.

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Next up is news of the reduced jail sentences for the orchestrators of a group of chat rooms dedicated to blackmailing young women into producing pornographic content. This references the infamous ‘Nth Room Case’, which managed to steal the headlines from the burgeoning Covid pandemic in early 2020.

Cutting away from the news segment, we join these cyberporn extortionists in jail, but in the same jail is Kim Do-ki (Lee). We are reunited with Do-ki as he exercises bare-chested in his cell. With his lithe frame, rippling muscles and shoulder-length mod haircut, he’s a dead ringer for Bruce Lee.

During a transfer to another facility, the Rainbow team flips over the bus and Do-ki beckons the extortionists into his black Deluxe Taxicab and offers them each a drink to celebrate their freedom.

When the young men wake up – the drinks were drugged – they discover that they are in a nondescript room with weapons in their hands and a TV switched on, which informs them that their armed escape may land them a life sentence. A Swat team swiftly descends on the building.

After this brief appetiser we catch up with a whittled-down Rainbow Taxi Company crew, as hacker Ahn Go-eun (Pyo) has joined the police force and engineers Choi Kyung-koo (Jang) and Park Jin-eon (Bae) have landed jobs at a car manufacturer and Korea’s version of Nasa, respectively.

Jang Sung-chul (Kim) is still running the “Deluxe Taxi” vigilante service and he gets a call from the distraught father (played by Choi Won) of Lee Dong-jae (Zo Zee-an), a young man who visited Vietnam and is presumed to have committed suicide there.

The father doesn’t believe the police’s assertion that his son is dead and after agreeing to the Deluxe Taxi terms, conveyed to him by the voice of Lee Young-ae in a converted photo booth, Sung-chul and Do-ki get to work.

Do-ki gets himself hired for the same suspicious opportunity that lured Dong-jae and he soon finds himself in a grim complex in an isolated corner of Vietnam surrounded by Korean thugs, who have tricked a group of desperate young men into programming illegal gambling software for them.

As luck would have it, Go-eun has been paying attention to the same missing person’s case at work, moved by the father’s plight and frustrated that the officers in charge haven’t taken it seriously. Though warned by her superior to mind her own business, she looks into it anyway and soon realises some familiar faces are also on the case.

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Meanwhile, Jin-eon has been offered a promotion that involves working in Russia for five years. He and Kyung-koo drop by the Rainbow Taxi Company to say goodbye, but after putting two and two together they hop on a plane to Vietnam to help Do-ki, although he is the one who ends up helping the bumbling engineers.

Part of Taxi Driver‘s charm is the way it attenuates its dark real-world issues with its bouncy action style and the cool camaraderie within its cast. Lee remains a strong lead, as fighting machine Do-ki benefits from his cool charm and comedy chops.

There’s some unfinished business from season one that we’ll eventually have to get back to, but this is the kind of show that lives and dies by the strength of its episodic stories and the chemistry of its core cast.

On both those counts, the start of season two gives us no cause for concern. With any niggling doubt of a return to form out of the way, we can now buckle up for 16 new episodes of vicarious vigilante thrills.

Taxi Driver season 2 is streaming on Viu.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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