A landmark of 70s American cinema that announced to the world the arrival of director Martin Scorsese, screenwriter Paul Schrader and star Robert De Niro. Though critics remain divided over the ultimate merits of TAXI DRIVER, it is an undeniably brilliant, nightmarish portrait of one man's personal hell.
TAXI DRIVER is an alarmingly plausible character study of Vietnam vet Travis Bickle (De Niro), an alienated insomniac who spends his nights driving a New York cab. Much of what we see of the city is viewed through his windshield. After long night shifts, he still can't sleep and spends hours in
porno theatres or alone in his squalid room. He has nothing but contempt for the "scum" he sees all around him and prophesies that someday a big rain will come and clean all the filth from the streets. Travis' world brightens a little when he sees a beautiful blonde woman, Betsy (Cybill Shepherd),
in the campaign offices of presidential candidate Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris). He quickly develops a crush on her, and she finds him intriguing enough to agree to go out with him. When he takes her, though, to a porn film (the only type of movie he knows) she walks out in disgust. An even
more frustrated Travis then meets Iris (Jodie Foster), a 12-year-old runaway turned prostitute who is managed by a long-haired pimp known as Sport (Harvey Keitel). Travis becomes obsessed with "rescuing" Iris from her situation, turning himself into a one-man killing machine as he prepares for a
bloody crusade which he believes will put the world to rights.
TAXI DRIVER is a fevered, paranoid take on the perils of contemporary urban life. Scorsese paints a picture of New York City with stark, unforgettable images--steaming sewers, rainslicked streets, glaring neon lights--that together constitute a vision of hell on earth. All this is helped immensely
by Bernard Herrmann's visceral score (his last; he passed away a day after its completion), and Michael Chapman's grainy cinematography. The climactic killing sequence is a sustained, hallucinatory triumph of shot composition and editing--as stomach-churning as it is technically astonishing. (Much
of the negative critical reaction to the film focused on Scorsese's moral stance toward this bloodbath, claiming--short-sightedly--that it is portrayed as a positive, cleansing ritual that redeems Travis' character. TAXI DRIVER is far more ironic and multi-layered than such an interpretation
De Niro's mesmerizing performance is central to the film's success. He appears in nearly every scene and we see nearly everything through his skewed vision. He commands the screen and evokes such power and authority--even during Travis's meekest moments--that we are inexorably drawn into his life.
Shepherd is highly effective as the Hitchcockian icy blonde, and the young Jodie Foster effortlessly conveys both youthful innocence and a street-smart, wise-beyond-her-years quality. Her breakfast scene with De Niro is riveting. In smaller roles, Boyle is great fun as an eccentric cabbie;
comedian/filmmaker Albert Brooks plays Shepherd's somewhat nerdy co-worker; and Harvey Keitel makes a memorably sleazy Sport.
TAXI DRIVER won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival, and Scorsese and De Niro were honored as Best Director and Best Actor by the New York Film Critics.
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- Released: 1976
- Rating: R
- Review: A landmark of 70s American cinema that announced to the world the arrival of director Martin Scorsese, screenwriter Paul Schrader and star Robert De Niro. Though critics remain divided over the ultimate merits of TAXI DRIVER, it is an undeniably brilliant,… (more)