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Taxi Driver

A 1976 movie directed by Martin Scorsese.

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One of the best for both Scorsese and De Niro.

  • Aug 17, 2011
Rating:
+5
**** out of ****

Travis Bickle, the character at the center of Martin Scorsese's masterful "Taxi Driver", is often cited as one of the great villains of cinema. Perhaps he is a villain. He shoots people. They die. He plans to cause destruction and treats it as his only cause. He's a broken man, and that is why people see him as villainous. However...Travis leads a problematic existence. He can't solve his problems easy. And I believe that his problems alone make him something much more than a villain, but not yet a hero. There's no way that he could be. Perhaps an anti-hero? I guess that fits. But a villain suggests that Travis is a bad man, and from what I interpreted; a bad man he is not.

Travis (Robert De Niro) finds work early on in the film as a taxi cab driver. It's not something he really enjoys, but I assume it cools him down a bit; soothes him. However, the things that he observes do not. Travis is depressed, lonely, and depraved. The fact that prostitutes, killers, and scum rule the streets bothers him even more, and near the beginning of the film, we're wondering if this guy is finally going to blow. He lives in a world of hell that he cannot leave; because I assume the city would follow him wherever he went. There are things such as that which have the power to haunt us and control us, as so.

In a sense, the city is a character in itself. It is populated by these indecent beings; with Travis and his fellow drivers taking the roads for themselves. Notice whenever Travis is on the open street, he is safe; and when he enters the darker corners of the city, which is New York City, his cab is egged by those just as bored as he is. This gives New York a dark personality; as it is most definitely Scorsese's intent to show the dark side of humanity. I believe he succeeds. But anyways, I am getting just a little bit off track.

We witness many of Travis's lonely, taxi-driving nights; in which he encounters many people. By day, he also observes those around him and in one instant, he believes he is smitten with a beautiful woman. He treats her to a meal, and takes her to a film; which becomes a problem, as the only kind of movie that Travis has knowledge of is the porn film. He fails to understand the languages of love and romance. This is step one in his ever-lasting descent into a personal hell. And he keeps on descending, as he has no choice but to keep on going and never stop; never looking back for an instant.

But Travis is not completely inhuman. He may want to murder the scum of the city on-sight, but there's one major plot element that may surprise you; Travis's strange friendship with a twelve-year-old prostitute, Iris (Jodie Foster). When they first meet - and by that I mean when they first sit down and actually strike up a decent conversation - Travis is disgusted by Iris's sexual advances, and wants to save her from this cruddy underworld. He asks her to return home to her parents; something that the young girl may not be entirely comfortable with, and in some ways, we can understand why this may be.

Characters like Travis Bickle are intelligent, decent people living in places not worthy of their intellect. I recently saw Mike Leigh's "Naked", a film that obviously released some years after this one, but none-the-less, it presents the actor David Thewlis as a character who suffers from not only himself, but the world and its bleak atmospheric qualities. Travis is an insomniac who takes the taxi driver job because of that very issue; and his night-time shifts are glorified and stylized by the wonderful, almost surreal cinematography highlighting the filth and visual beauty all around him; and of course, Bernard Herrmann's score, which adds a sleazy, laid-back, but artful feel to the film. It was his last score; and he went out with a bang.

The film is a classic because it can be studied thematically with much depth. The film is a memorable character study of both its anti-hero and the places he goes. I believe that Scorsese is a great filmmaker because he knows of these "dark corners of the earth". He's probably been around them, or at least that's what I would expect seeing how darned great his film is. "Taxi Driver" is not only accompanied by great dialogue which supplies a few good quotes, good characters and development, or a study of psychopathic, violent reactions; but also the direction of its filmmaker. He takes it to dark, daring places; and that's what I admired about it. There are few films like "Taxi Driver" and that's how it will always be, but what the hell; I don't want to damned imitators.

De Niro puts his all into this performance, which might just be his best, or at least it's my personal favorite thus far. He is the final and most essential ingredient to the Travis Bickle character; creating him a more obsessive, desolate man. He might have some sort of personality disorder that makes him the character (man) that he is, but that is for the film scholars and historians to say. I'm just doing my best to write this review, which is covering one of the finest films ever made. When a film is not good only as entertainment but also as, well, what I call "brain-food", then it is special. "Taxi Driver" isn't entertaining in the sense that it is fun; "Taxi Driver" is entertaining in the sense that it is deep, thoughtful, and a good amount of fun to analyze. So I suppose that, even through the bloodshed and the unflinching depiction of humanities' least finest, fun does come into the equation; but that's all a matter of opinion, and I have just stated mine. I hope that everyone reading, who has not seen the film, will consider seeing it soon, because I waited for far too long.

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More Taxi Driver reviews
review by . November 06, 2010
A rebel with a cause fighting in a war he can't win
For being written in 5 days, Taxi Driver exceeds the expectations of a typical character study. Paul Schrader and Martin Scorsese had in mind an adaption of Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground. Instead, they produced something the closest to it and its milieu was Scorsese's ubiquitous New York. Taxi drivers have an omniscience; they travel around the entire city, familiar with the energy and behaviour it all carries. After a while, one is bound to get sick of it. Travis Bickel does.   …
review by . December 21, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
  Yep, that's right, I think this is Martin Scorcese's best movie. Even better than Goodfellas, Casino, or Raging Bull (all fantastic movies, mind you).   I first came across Taxi Driver back in December of 2006 when it was on AMC, and while I only caught about the last 60% of the movie, I was captivated by the gritty cinematography and central character, Travis Bickle. It wasn't long before I requested it as a Christmas gift, and this is one Christmas gift that hasn't …
review by . November 22, 2010
If your looking for a movie that encompasses the fibrous, gritty, emotionally packed aspects of 1970's cinema; Taxi Driver is one your top candidates. Synopsis: A mentally unstable Vietnam war veteran works as nighttime taxi driver in a city whose perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge to violently lash out, attempting to save a teenage prostitute in the process. I am still very strong in my opinion that the 70's was the greatest decade in American cinema, and this is one of the finest movies …
Quick Tip by . June 26, 2010
Classic. Example of how "out there" an angry, dis-illuisoned, and lonely guy could get.
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
a little dark
review by . May 08, 2009
Taxi Driver is a very controversial film from the team of Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader. The movie shows the decay of the inner boroughs of Manhattan and the decline of a disturbed individual's mind.     A former Viet-Nam vet turned cab driver (Robert De Niro) is roaming the streets watching the world go to pot. The line between fantasy and reality is ever blurring because of his mental status. Slowly over time he imagines that society needs someone who will clean the streets …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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Martin Scorsese's intense film, a hallmark of 1970s filmmaking, graphically depicts the tragic consequences of urban alienation when a New York City taxi driver goes on a murderous rampage against the pitiable denizens inhabiting the city's underbelly. For psychotic, pistol-packing Vietnam vet Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), New York City seems like a circle of hell. Driving his cab each night through the bleak Manhattan streets, Bickle observes with fanatical loathing the sleazy lowlifes who comprise most of his fares. By day he haunts the porno theaters of 42nd Street, taking his cues from the violent vision of life portrayed in these movies. As badly as Travis wants to connect with the people around him--including Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), a lovely blonde campaign worker, and Iris (Jodie Foster), a prepubescent prostitute he tries to save--his attempts are thwarted and his pent-up rage grows, turning him into a Mohawk-wearing walking time bomb. Scorcese fills Paul Schrader's screenplay with a tragic re...
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