Thursday, December 17, 2015

AFI Top 100, #47: "Taxi Driver" (1976)

Movie Stats:
Released 1976 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Martin Scorsese
Stars - Robert De Niro, Cybill Shepherd, Jodie Foster

Plot Summary:
Mentally unstable Vietnam Vet, and cab driver, Travis Bickle (De Niro), slowly gives in to his urge to commit violence. Shepherd co-stars as Betsy, the object of Bickle’s affection, and Foster as Iris, the preteen prostitute that Bickle is convinced he must save.

Graphic violence; gore; lots of blue language; heavily implied sexy times; brief nudity (when Bickle views a porno in a theater, you see some of what he sees, but it’s a quick flash and it’s an orgy scene so it’s a little difficult for me to say exactly how much you see, only butt I think).

Bad Stuff:
The saxophone song that’s used repetitively throughout is both terrible and annoying. I didn’t like most of the soundtrack in general.

The ending is so unbelievable as to nearly ruin the film for me. I’m just going to pretend that it ends with the shootout.*

Good Stuff:
All of the performances are great. De Niro does most of the heavy lifting, and he does an excellent job of it. Bickle is clearly dangerous, there’s an anger simmering under his surface that’s impossible to ignore, but he’s also compelling. De Niro does such a magnificent job of conveying that.

It’s surprisingly funny. I particularly enjoyed the banter between Betsy and her friend-zoned co-worker, Tom (Albert Brooks).

It’s the kind of movie that just grabs you. It’s relatively spare. There’s not much action, and most of it comes at the end, and yet you can’t look away. It grabbed me from the start. I was never bored.

The Verdict:
I really liked it a lot. It’s a fascinating look at one man’s descent into darkness. I felt so much compassion for Bickle. It’s clear that he doesn’t know how to behave like a normal human, but he tries so hard. When he actually manages to charm Betsy into a date and then [SPOILER] takes her to a porno [SPOILER], I was like, “Oh god, why Travis? Why?” He genuinely doesn’t understand what he did wrong, but that’s the problem, isn’t it? Because he doesn’t understand how to interact with other people normally, he’ll always be frustrated, and that frustration will build until it explodes. While you may pick up this movie to see the eventual explosion, it’s the journey to get there that’s the truly interesting part. This film is very well done, and it came before Scorsese got longwinded, so it’s fairly concise. "The Departed" may still be my favorite Scorsese, but I think "Taxi Driver" is his masterpiece.

I give it 4.75 stars.

*Upon further reflection later, I began to suspect that those final scenes are all a delusion of Bickle's. If so, then they make perfect sense and are in fact rather brilliant.


Patricia said...

I wonder when I watched this? I can remember watching it, but can't remember when. I don't remember thinking any which way about it, but your review makes me think I should take another look. Perhaps.

balyien said...

I saw bits and pieces of it when I was younger, but never watched it the whole way through until now. I think I could see you going either way with it - really hating it or really enjoying it.