Review: Taxi Driver (1976)

We commemorate Taxi Driver's re-release...

You talking to me? Well I’m the only one here. Yes, THAT film that bought us THAT scene is re-released in cinemas this weekend and, to commemorate the occasion, we look back at the iconic Taxi Driver.

Scorsese and De Niro, two Hollywood staples who are instantly recognisable not only by name, but by their projects too. Having worked together on numerous occasions (including Mean Streets, Goodfellas and The Departed), the results are largely revered and widely applauded but none are as iconic as Taxi Driver, a film that follows Vietnam vet Travis Bickle as he slowly transcends from being a fairly lucid, if slightly odd, cab driver to becoming a gun-wielding homicidal purveyor of justice.

Travis’s internal bitterness is highlighted in the running commentary he gives on the world around him and Scorsese’s close-ups and distinctive shots help build a sense of his fragile character. Despite having to clean cum and blood off of his taxi’s seats on a weekly basis he praises the job for keeping him busy whilst his hours, 6pm – 6am, six days a week, surely have some telling connotations. His obsessive traits begin to emerge, driven by his infatuation with political canvasser Betsy (Cybill Shepherd). His words paint a dark picture of the sleazy New York streets he despises and yet he manages to take Betsy to watch an adult film for their first date. Understandably appalled, she evades him for the rest of the film, helping his bitterness to snowball.

Taxi Driver‘s style throughout is recognisably Scorsese, with improvised shots and vivid close-ups being used to great effect throughout. The imposing soundtrack and sultry sax all help create the brooding atmosphere at the heart of Taxi Driver. Despite being made in the 70’s the film still feels fresh and compelling whilst the recognisable and iconic American cabs only help define this iconic film.

Travis’s mental problems and obsessive nature become increasingly troubling and yet he still manages to provide enlightening wisdom and an iconic performance that has managed to ingrain itself in society. The lies he tells to his parents (of being a secret agent) are telling whilst the disillusion he feels toward women threatens to develop misogynistically. This, however, is avoided by a chance meeting with a youthful Jodie Foster. Foster, playing a 12 year-old pushy prostitute, provides a startling performance that allows De Niro’s Travis not only an outlet to mope, but also a reason to fight.

Disparaged by the world that surrounds his nightly round he begins to take the law into his own hands. Marking the beginnings of his visible loss of sanity, he arms himself heavily and starts to prep himself for a showdown. Despite his unstable mental state his introspective moments are compelling whilst his haircut, as well as iconic, sets him apart from both the normality posed by the rest of the film and to everyone who turns a blind eye to the ills of society.

At first the government candidate seems an obvious target for Travis’s lust for vengeance but, thanks to Foster’s Iris, his attentions are instead set on the pimps that imprison her. Single-handedly taking on the men who are to blame for her profession, Travis rights the wrongs he finds in the city. Although the gore effects are a bit dated, the scene is highly engaging and offers a neat finale to the film. Travis is surprisingly applauded for his actions but no definite conclusion is given to his mania.

One of the most iconic films of its decade, Taxi Driver is hard-hitting and makes for engrossing viewing even twenty five years on.

Best performance

De Niro as as the titular driver

Best line

'You looking at me?'


Jeff Bridges almost had the lead role in this movie

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