Monday, June 13, 2011

#311. Taxi Driver (1976)

Directed By: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel

Tag line: "He's a lonely, forgotten man desperate to prove he's alive"

Trivia:  One of the studios who considered producing this film suggested Neil Diamond play the title role.

Someday a real rain will come to wash all the scum off the streets

So says Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro), the isolated anti-hero of Martin Scorsese’s gripping 1976 film Taxi Driver

But as we soon discover, Travis is not a patient man, and tires of waiting for this “divine rain” to arrive. So, he decides to take matters into his own hands. 

A Vietnam veteran living in New York, Travis works as an overnight cab driver. By cruising the mean streets after dark, he encounters all forms of criminals and lowlifes, and learns to hate each and every one of them. 

One night, he meets a 12-year-old prostitute named Iris (Jodie Foster), who works for a pimp known as ‘Sport’ (Harvey Keitel). Travis eventually befriends the young girl, and despises the man who is robbing her of her innocence. 

This, combined with the collapse of his relationship with pretty political volunteer Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), causes Travis to unravel, and slowly lose his grip on reality. 

Soon, Travis will confront the criminal element he despises, and do so in a brutal, merciless fashion. 

Taxi Driver was Scorsese's and DeNiro’s second collaboration (following 1972’s Mean Streets), and the first in which DeNiro was the star. From start to finish, Scorsese does a wonderful job bringing us deep into Travis’ world, taking us everywhere he goes, showing us everything he sees. We’re with Travis on his nightly taxi runs, and eavesdrop on his innermost thoughts, many of which send chills running down our spine. 

Scorsese structures Taxi Driver in such a way that we are in Travis’ company for nearly the entire film, keeping us so in tune with his lead character that, like Travis, we become oblivious to the rest of the world. We are one with his warped reality, and serve as the lone witnesses to his descent into the abyss. 

Robert DeNiro is predictably marvelous as Travis, and I especially liked the restrained manner in which he delivers the voice-over narration, where he puts into words the thoughts that are dominating his character's mind. As the story progresses, these thoughts devolve from subtle observations (“All of the animals come out at night…sick, venal”) to twisted calls for action (“The idea has been growing in my brain for some time: brute force. All the kings’ men cannot put it back together again”). It’s obvious from the get-go that Travis is a loose cannon, capable of going off at any given moment.  

By the conclusion of Taxi Driver, Travis has done something that convinces the rest of the world he is a hero, a man who saw injustice and decided to do something about it. 

But we know a bit more about Travis than they do. 

We’ve listened to him express his outrage at the state of modern society, and we were there when he issued himself a personal challenge to change the world by any means necessary. We watched him arm himself, hang out at political rallies, and frighten poor Betsy with his erratic behavior.

We know that Travis, despite his so-called ‘heroic’ deed, is a man whose actions stem more from a blossoming hostility than any true concern for the welfare of mankind. Instead of praise, Travis is a man who should be feared. 

And they would fear him, if they knew him like we do.



SJHoneywell said...

"We are one with his warped reality"

For me, this is the genius of the film. We're set up as the audience to identify with Travis for the first part of the film. Then, when he shows up freshly mohawked and crazy, we're left with the realization that the only person we have to latch onto in this film is a guy who has lost his mind, at least in terms of normal society. It's not easy to make the audience sympathetic with a beast, but this film pulls it off.

DVD Infatuation said...

@Steve: Excellent point about that mohawk scene: it really is a shock when we first see it!

I love how Scorsese sets the audience apart from the rest of the world, allowing us to see just how twisted Travis is. There are plenty of people, even those who "know" him, who believe he's just a lonely guy, but we know better.

Makes you wonder how many people like Travis are out there...a chilling thought!

Thanks for the's greatly appreciated

Chris said...

Good review, I agree that we really get under Travis' skin with the personal voice-overs. I get the feeling Travis wouldn't lose his mind, if he had a support system who cared.

I think comparable story to Fight Club (1999), an at times violent character study with a subjective viewpoint about an insomniac dealing with alienation issues, who through voice-overs thinks about what is wrong with the world, and wants to make it a better place.(taken from my incomplete review)

I'm going to do a write-up of Taxi Driver soon, so keep an eye out :D

DVD Infatuation said...

@moviesandsongs365: Thanks so much for the kind words.

I'll agree that the story is very similar to that inn FIGHT CLUB (though obviously the tone of that film is much different than TAXI DRIVER).

I look forward to reading your TAXI DRIVER review. Please be sure to stop back and post a link once it's up!

Anonymous said...

hey guys did you know?

Taxi Driver is a 1976 American drama-thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Paul Schrader.

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won the Palme d'Or at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival.
Watch this space for more thriller movies this week.

For more fun facts and trivia, check out

Unknown said...

One of my favorite movies of all time. This is Scorsese's NY. His state of mind. Dangerous place, eh?

DVD Infatuation said...

@Alex: This is most definitely Scorsese's NY, and yeah...I wouldn't want to be left alone there at night!

Thanks for the comment, and for stopping by.