"Taxi Driver" is a brooding, sometimes violent
character study. Although controversial, it has
generally been highly praised. While it is a
good film, it lacks focus, and De Niro's character
transitions sometimes lack credibility.
A very lean Robert De Niro is Travis, a taxi driver
in New York City. Travis is a loner, spending off
hours in porn movie houses and brooding alone in
his apartment. He keeps a journal in which he
condemns the street life of NYC, and wishes that
somebody would clean the city up. He develops
obsessions for political staffer Cybil Shephard,
her Presidential candidate Senator Palantine
(Leonard Harris), handguns, and a twelve year old
prostitute (Jodie Foster).
The climax of "Taxi Driver" has the heavily armed
De Niro attempting to rescue Foster from her pimp
(Harvey Keitel, who has shoulder-length hair).
This results in a graphic shootout. I don't object
to the bloodfest, but its aftermath. It is as if
nothing has happened: Travis is again working as
a cab driver, and has recovered his mental faculties.
After Shephard's brief relationship with De Niro ends,
her character keeps resurfacing. This is as confusing
to me as De Niro's actions. He attends a Palantine
speech, apparently to assassinate him, with the
assumed motive of impressing Shephard. But by this
time, his interests have turned to Foster and Keitel.
The Bernard Herrman score, good as it is, increases the
confusion, changing back and forth from sleepy retro
jazz to something more brooding and ominous.
"Taxi Driver" is a very interesting film. It is
impossible to predict where the story will go next,
the dialogue is very good, and the cast and direction
(by Martin Scorsese) is good. Palantine, a stereotype
of an ambitious, platitude-spouting politician, is
the only weak character.
1976 was the year of "Network" and "Rocky", preventing
"Taxi Driver" from winning any Academy Awards. The
film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (De Niro),
Best Supporting Actress (Foster) and Best Score.
Copyright © 1996 Brian Koller