[box cover]

Taxi Driver: Collector's Edition

Columbia/Tristar Studios

Starring Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster,
Harvey Keitel and Cybil Shepherd

Written by Paul Schrader
Directed by Martin Scorsese

Back to Review Index

Back to Quick Reviews

Travis Bickle is sick. Unable to sleep, he spends his nights driving a taxi through the crime- and whore-infested neighborhoods of New York City. Days, he subsists on pornography and junk food. He keeps a journal documenting the rot he sees around him and the growing rot inside him. He spends his life in squalor, and is at once repulsed and ensnared by it.

A manic loner, Travis (Robert De Niro) tries to integrate himself into society, but his limited social references and skills keep him imprisoned, cut-off. Detached and inarticulate, he rationalizes his isolation as a reaction to the teeming filth and corruption of the city he stalks.

Travis becomes obsessed with Betsy (Cybil Shepherd), a campaign worker for a presidential candidate. He mistakes her beauty for purity. She becomes an object on which Travis can project his romantic delusions. At first she is intrigued by Travis' forward awkwardness and his compulsive need to protect her. When he takes her to a movie — a porn flick, the only kind he knows — she rejects him, and his idolatry turns to venom. Spurned, Travis redirects his fixation onto Iris (Jodie Foster), an adolescent prostitute. They are each a combustible combination of sin and innocence, and Travis sets out to save her soul and purge his own demons in the only way his narrow, enraged mind can conceive.

Taxi Driver is one of those rare, quality, viewer-unfriendly movies that has managed to overcome puritan prejudices and assimilate into our cultural consciousness in very deep, and sometimes disturbing, ways. Robert De Niro's performance as Travis Bickle has become an icon of dislocation, and can easily be seen as a role model or precursor of sorts for real violent outcasts. He is both charming and repellent, and has no trouble convincing himself that his dark thoughts are good thoughts, and that they are borne of vital necessity (even if, deep down, it's only to impress or gain attention). De Niro plays the role with such struggle and empathy, eager only to please or destroy, that he hits a deep nerve, particularly in male viewers. It's most disturbing because it so carefully and exactly — and amazingly bereft of commerical senationalism — describes the sort of person who feels compelled to turn to dire solutions (and, perhaps irresponsibly, depicts him emerging from the fire cured and redeemed).

Director Martin Scorsese had established himself as a promising filmmaker with his breakthrough film Mean Streets a few years earlier, but with Taxi Driver he exploded onto the scene as a thrilling visionary. His kinetic, brooding style has never been used better (not even in Goodfellas). Through cinematographer Michael Chapman, his camera glides through the hellish streets of New York with the same detached menace as Travis, always adding a remarkable energy to the proceedings, but never getting carried away with visual trickery at the mercy of substance. Scorsese is also a master of the visual comment: in one unforgettable shot, Travis stands at a pay phone, pleading with Betsy to see him again, and the camera drifts slowly to the right, eschewing Travis in favor of an empty hallway, rejecting him from his own movie.

Writer Paul Schrader says he wrote the first two drafts of the script during 10 ten intense, lonely days. Through collaboration with Scorsese and De Niro, none of his immediacy or feeling was lost, but rather amplified. Taxi Driver is a near-perfect movie, and one that would never come out of the major studios today, at least not without hiding behind some soulless irony to make it more marketable.

Also starring Harvey Keitel as Foster's pimp Sport, and Albert Brooks as Shepherd's co-worker. Great, menacing, catchy score by Bernard Herrman was the great composer's last. Superbly edited by Marcia Lucas, then-wife of George. Winner of the Cannes Film Festival's Palm d'Or in 1976, and deservedly included in the AFI's recent list of the 100 greatest American movies ever.

This Collector's Edition is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 2.0 Dolby. Extras include a long making of documentary featuring Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster and Martin Scorsese, the full screenplay with interactive access to corresponding scenes, theatrical trailer, advertising materials, storyboards of the climactic sequence, photo montage, portrait gallery, and textual supplements. Keep case.

— Gregory P. Dorr

Get it at Reel.com

Back to Review Index

Back to Quick Reviews

Back to Main Page

© 1999, The DVD Journal