Doug (Jesse Buschini) has just been fired, his car has broken down and his wife (Julie Ann Dinneweth) is less than happy with him. While hopping a cab ride home, he gets a call from his brother, Dallas (Jeff D. Miller), asking for help. Turns out Dallas owes money to some shady people, and is captive in a warehouse, where he will likely be killed should he not make good on the debt by the morning.
As if matters couldn’t get worse, every ATM Doug visits is out of order, and the cab driver (Henry Ramirez) has been popping anxiety pills ever since Doug got in the cab, which results in an overdose. As Doug deals with the now-dead driver, another person climbs in the back seat, looking for a ride. With few options left, Doug takes on the role of Habib the Cab Driver, collecting fares for the rest of the evening to raise the money to save his brother.
If that brief synopsis of Rocky Costanzo’s Midnite Cabby sounds ridiculous, it’s because the film is precisely that. While there are certainly dramatic moments to be had, this is a comedy, and a stylistically absurd one at that. Dallas’ kidnappers and tormentors, for example, appear to be menacing, though somewhat inept, mimes. As Doug goes along, a video game-style heads-up display shows on the screen to keep track of how much money he’s raised after each fare. It’s fun, and often silly.
And if it wasn’t for there being a few actual messages hidden throughout the film, about enabling and breaking patterns, I’d think the whole thing was just an excuse to show as many silly cab rides as one could come up with. Which the film certainly does, but altogether it feels like a more complete experience due to its occasional moments of intelligent clarity amid the madcap insanity.
Visually, the film is solid. Most of the cab rides involve green screen work outside the windows of the cab to give the illusion of movement, but the few times where it feels cheesy or hokey actually line up perfectly with the overall vibe of the piece, so it works. It’s a heightened reality, so anything that seems overly stylistic or strange tends to fit in nicely.
Overall, Midnite Cabby is just a lot of fun. Not every joke hits, but it tends to move on to the next one rather fast. There’s never any real feeling of suspense or danger in the film; once the silliness is established, you settle into its comfort and go along with it. The film didn’t change my life, but it was a nice comedic diversion.
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