Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Paul Schrader
Stars: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel, Peter Boyle, and Cybill Shepherd
Taxi Driver is a warped noir film. If the beginning where in black & white you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching an old Humphrey Bogart film. But instead of a narration by Sam Spade you have Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro).
You are slowly introduced into Travis’ world. Tavis is a Vietnam vet fighting personal demons as he tries to make a life as a taxi driver. At night he drives husbands as they follow their philandering wives; couples hooking-up after a fun night out; johns with their lady of the night; all manner of lowlife he feels should be cleansed from the city. It is during one of these shifts that he meets Iris (Jodi Foster). Getting involved in an argument between Iris and her pimp, Sport (Harvey Keitel).
Travis also has an infatuation with Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), a campaign operative for Senator Charles Palantine. One day he introduces himself to her, and eventually convinces Betsy to go out on a date. Their “relationship” does not end well. He later constantly hangs around the periphery of her life; even giving a ride to Palantine himself.
As Travis’ insomnia continues and his perception of reality becomes more and more damaged, he goes down a dark path of destruction as he attempts to become a hero to a city he has grown to hate.
Taxi Driver is very much a film of New York in the 70s. A city on the verge of financial bankruptcy and physical decay. The city is dangerous, dirty, and damaged.
Travis is one of many souls of New York barely getting by. De Niro owns this role. Allowing us into Travis’ inner turmoil and psychosis. When we first meet him Travis is meek. But by the climax, though physically the same, he is lean and dangerous. He has an edge that makes you wary. As for the rest of the supporting characters, they each hold their own. Stand-outs include Albert Brooks and Peter Doyle. Each acting and behaving in the way we come to expect when we see them performing, but in this case early in their career. Harvey Keitel is unrecognizable in his short role as Sport, and Jodi Foster makes an impression as Iris. The weakest link in the cast is Cybill Shepard. She never conveys why Travis is so infatuated with her. Betsy comes across as a blank.
As for the script, it does an excellent job bringing you into Travis’ world and making you understand where he is coming from and where he is going. The one failing is the ending, which left me scratching my head. After all that happened how can there be no scars? How can life go on as if nothing happened? How are there no ramifications? If the film had just ended before the phone message narration it would have been perfect.
Grade = B+