'Taxi Brooklyn': TV Review
10 p.m. Wednesday, June 25 (NBC)
Chyler Leigh, Jacky Ido, Bill Heck, Ally Walker, Jennifer Esposito
A French cab driver and a New York cop team up to solve crimes in NBC's police procedural that is heavy on car chases, and light on sense.
In NBC's Taxi Brooklyn, based loosely on Luc Besson's 1998 French film Taxi (but more closely resembling its lamented 2004 American remake), Caitlyn "Cat" Sullivan (Chyler Leigh, Grey's Anatomy), a recently demoted but tough young cop, is focused on finding her father's killer. The biggest thing standing in her way is that she's a terrible driver. What is more natural in New York City than to remedy this (and her loss of a license) by teaming up with a cab driver?
This shaky premise drives the first two hours of Taxi Brooklyn, which has been described as an "action comedy," but is really neither (it does serve as a long commercial for the Windows tablet, though). It's a standard police procedural but the twist is that the best detective on the show — the person with all of the muscle and connections — is the French cab driver Leo Romba (Jacky Ido, Inglourious Basterds). After a crash-cut meeting, the two join up mostly so that Cat can keep Leo (who is an illegal immigrant with a French rap sheet) in the country. The exchange is that he needs to drive her around to solve crimes (forever, apparently). The bonus for her, a la Castle, is that the non-cop turns out to be the cop's secret weapon.
Under Olivier Megaton's (Taken 2) direction, Taxi Brooklyn does jump off to a roaring start that the show tries later to re-create, but never to the success of that opening scene. In it, cars tear through the streets, chasing and avoiding each other, spinning and screeching and stopping short. It's fun and it's breezy, but it's as much fun as the show allows itself to have. The show invents other ways for Leo and his taxi to take Cat on crazy rides through the city, but is that all that different from a regular New York cabbie experience?
When it comes to Cat, no-nonsense here means no personality, although her boyish haircut and baggy clothes are at least a welcome change from overly glamorized female cop leads. Ido's Romba is the show's real star, with enough charm and charisma to almost pull off the ludicrous scenarios and boilerplate dialogue that plague the script. Bill Heck (The Amazing Spider-Man 2) appears as Cat's smarmy ex-husband, who also is an FBI agent, and Ally Walker (Sons of Anarchy) is Cat's jaunty mother, Frankie, who just doesn't understand why Cat is so interested in her father's death. Jennifer Esposito (Blue Bloods), who appeared in the 2004 film, plays a forensics expert and one of Cat's only allies on the force.
Leo's and Cat's uneasy alliance gains steam (though is not steamy — yet) throughout the inaugural hours, but the show throws in too many confusing and extraneous subplots that detract from it. One minute Leo is paralyzed from claustrophobia, and the next he's giving Cat armchair advice about the fact that he bets that if she starts crying, she may never stop. Both have fathers who died young under mysterious circumstances, whose deaths (naturally) must be avenged. In a particularly unfortunate exchange later on, Cat dismisses Leo with, "slow down, Sherlock" as well as, "alright, Columbo" in the same scene. How many more detectives can be invoked within one episode? Perhaps it's apt though, as Leo's excuse and background for so much good police work is that he loves watching movies and CSI.
Despite the shaky-cam usage, jarring jump cuts and incomprehensible editing that complicates already head-spinning plots (where phrases like "Chinese hackers" are thrown out casually, but never followed up on), Taxi Brooklyn is still unlikely to fool viewers into thinking it is anything more than a middling show on a midweek night. It's very possible that the series could simmer down, find its tone and play up to the strengths of Leigh and Ido as leads; but for now, "did somebody call a taxi?" No, thank you.