A mentally unstable veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action by attempting to liberate a presidential campaign worker and an underage prostitute.
Travis Bickle is an ex-Marine and Vietnam War veteran living in New York City. As he suffers from insomnia, he spends his time working as a taxi driver at night, watching porn movies at seedy cinemas during the day, or thinking about how the world, New York in particular, has deteriorated into a cesspool. He's a loner who has strong opinions about what is right and wrong with mankind. For him, the one bright spot in New York humanity is Betsy, a worker on the presidential nomination campaign of Senator Charles Palantine. He becomes obsessed with her. After an incident with her, he believes he has to do whatever he needs to make the world a better place in his opinion. One of his priorities is to be the savior for Iris, a twelve-year-old runaway and prostitute who he believes wants out of the profession and under the thumb of her pimp and lover Matthew.Written by
Scorsese's masterpiece is a raw, powerful and nerve wrecking look at depression and loneliness. The film centers on taxi driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), a man clearly with his own demons who finds a purpose in life when he meets a 12-year-old hooker (Jodie Foster) who he plans on saving from her pimp (Harvey Keitel). To me this is one of the richest films ever made and it's one that can easily be overlooked in some circles if you don't really connect to what the film is trying to say. I didn't care too much for the movie the first few times I watched it because I was too young to really understand depression and loneliness. After I understood what those things could do to a person is when I fully became aware of the power in this film and today it remains one of the most powerful films ever made. To me the entire film is pretty much about Travis trying to find someone to fit in with but of course it never really happens until he meets the hooker. He tries fitting in with the Cybill Shepherd character but falls flat on his face. He tries fitting in with his co-workers but that doesn't work out too well. No matter what Travis tries he keeps ending up alone and as he put it, he's God's lonely man. This film works on so many levels but I think the psychological one is where it's best at. Getting us into the mind of Travis works for many reasons but the biggest keys are the direction by Scorsese, the brilliant music score by Bernard Herrmann and DeNiro's groundbreaking performance. Putting those three things together is what makes this a classic but we can also throw in the screenplay by Paul Schrader, which rightfully gives the movie the time and patience to let the Travis character grow right in front of our eyes. DeNiro's performance is certainly one for the ages, although I think he would get even better with Scorsese's RAGING BULL, which would follow in four years. His performance here is nothing short of amazing because you can't help but be terrified by this guy because of the look in DeNiro's eyes. You can't help but feel sorry for him at the same time because there are countless moments where he embarrasses himself because he simply doesn't know how to fit in. The word anti-hero gets used a lot and perhaps that's a good term but I think it's something much deeper than that. DeNiro hits all the right marks without a false note anywhere. Foster is also impressive in her few scenes in the film as is Keitel as the pimp. Shepherd is also good as his Albert Brookes and the underrated Peter Boyle who has one of the best scenes in the movie where he's trying to talk some sense into Travis. The visual look of the film is mighty impressive and Scorsese's directing style is nothing short of amazing. The slimy looking streets and the dark atmosphere are one of a kind and something many films tried to copy but could never get it as perfect as it is here. This here remains one of the greatest American films ever made and I'm really not sure any movie could top it in showing the effects that loneliness can have on a person.
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