Vault: 'Taxi Driver' (1976) Dir. Martin Scorsese
Celebrating it's 45th year in 2021, this bleak and often tragic exploration of taxi driver Robert De Niro still packs a social punch and stands tall years later...
26 year old Travis Bickle (De Niro) is a fragile and depressed loner wandering the streets of New York. He takes a job as a night-time taxi driver where his eyes are constantly opened.
The city is drowning under corruption and low-life activity, and Travis just wants to sort it out. His frustration with running Senator Palantine (Harris) doesn't help his state of mind.
When Travis encounters young prostitute Iris (Foster), he takes it upon himself to sort out the city he sees falling around him and protect Iris, even if that means putting his own life on the line...
This grim, bleak and honest depiction of the New York way of live in the mid-70s threw Robert De Niro into real stardom. A very careful and layered performance bring taxi driver Travis Bickle to life - a man who wants to make a change in a city he sees decaying around hi. But that change is brought on by a depressive, intense psychological state that eats him up day by day, night by night.
Director Martin Scorsese brings New York to life in a very different way, shooting mostly at night time when everyone - and everything - almost comes alive in ways people don't want to see. From the moisture rising from the sewers, to the bustle of city life, the neon lights, honking horns and general buzz of life, Travis is a small man in a big world but he wants to change that world for the better.
We see how Travis feels about politics, about society, relationships and himself. De Niro doesn't need to do much except slow burn Travis as an observer - watching, listening, waiting.
A good hour of this explores Travis and everything that brings him to where we meet him. He takes everything in and it's clear frustrations and annoyances are bubbling away by what he sees. He's almost charming to watch at times, but also taught and intense - you never know if and when he will burst.
The second hour explores the results of how a broken man takes on a broken city in the hope of doing something good for not just himself, but the country as a whole by cleaning up New York. This means waging a personal war on people who he simply doesn't like, who he knows feed on the depravity of the city and bring it down for everyone else. This includes young Jodie Foster as Iris, a girl swept up in prostitution and who becomes the sort of person Bickle wants to protect. All the way to a bloody finale.
Featuring the famous "you talking to me" scene where De Niro turns into a real vigilante, full of a disturbed sense of confidence and ideal. Self-narrated by Bickle, this is a journey that is shot in a very real, very grounded and very atmospheric way. Scorsese knows how to use framing and music (a chilling soundtrack by Bernard Herrmann becomes a secondary character almost) to bring everyone and everything alive.
A supporting cast including Cybil Shepherd, Peter Boyle and Leonard Harris help add to the roster that both support and deprave De Niro's Bickle, for no fault of their own. Simply because they either do or not fit into his vision of what society should be and represent.
An absorbing and tragic look into one man wanting to make a difference without barriers or social graces between him and the bullets used to do it. Something that can scarily be resonated in society 45 years later.
'Taxi Driver' is a co-production between Bill/Phillips Productions & Italo/Judeo Productions