I don’t think criticism should be mean. I know that the canon of movie reviews includes more than a few famous takedowns, but these accomplish little in the name of actually offering novel lenses through which films may be viewed – in my mind, they’re little more than opportunities for the author in question to show off how rude they can really be. All that being said, The Tax Collector is this close to changing my perspective on this issue permanently.

The latest borderline non-film from David Ayer has a plot, I guess, but what’s the point? It’s delivered to the audience so choppily, so haphazardly that it’s difficult to grasp what was even intended to come across in the first place. Most people know this film as the one that co-star Shia LaBeouf got actual, real-life chest tattoos for, and that is hopefully how they will remember it.

LaBeouf himself, surprisingly, plays second fiddle to Bobby Soto‘s David, a family man whose day job is collecting tribute payments from Los Angeles’s many street gangs. LaBeouf plays Creeper, David’s famously vicious right hand man. Never mind that we never actually see an example of David’s ferocity, just trust him – he’s a real baddie.

Ayer, probably thinking that he’s Tarantino, fills most of the first two thirds of the film with scenes of David and Creeper waxing philosophical in the car on death, meditation, Christianity, and women. To call it asinine would imply that it’s anything at all, which I’m really just not sure that it is. Eventually a new gangster shows up in town to rival David’s boss The Wizard, and then the George Lopez (yeah, really)-played Uncle Louis gets involved – listen folks, it’s a mess.

I simply don’t know why this movie exists. What initially seems like a shabby, run-of-the-mill gangster drama is, by the end, a weird, violent call for racial harmony and then an outright plea for Christian faith. The violence is far too over the top to be compelling but so oozing with self-seriousness that it could hardly be classified as fun. None of it makes sense, none of it even seems to be trying to, and LaBeouf is shirtless for all of 15 seconds of screen time – making his ink investment about as unfortunate as they come.

The half a star being awarded comes as a result of the film’s relative brevity and admirable pace – it may be no fun to watch, but it does end quickly to its benefit. Whatever Ayer was trying to do, he failed, but at least he did so with such bravura that at least he’s produced a car crash worth a lingering glance.

Okay, that’s it. I’m back to being nice from now on.