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Taxi Driver

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Taxi Driver

Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rated: R
RunTime: 114 Minutes
Release Date: February 1976
Genres: Classic, Drama, Action, Cult

*Also starring: Cybill Shepherd, Peter Boyle, Harvey Keitel, Albert Brooks, Leonard Harris, Joe Spinell, Martin Scorsese

Review by Brian Koller
3 stars out of 4

"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

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