The movie starts off with a mystery man walking into a dingy cab company and applying for a job. Something's off about him, he's friendly on the surface but underneath it there's something stiff and cold. He mentioned the Marine Corp, did something in Vietnam break him? Has he seen too many tragedies, and this waxen face is the most he can muster? Does he see the hookers and pimps, the human slime wandering the streets, and question what he was fighting for? And what about those pills he keeps taking – is there some underlying mental condition? Then, driving around in his cab he sees a woman. He stalks her to her job at a Senator's campaign office, and at first we think there's going to be some sort of conflict here, but then the camera pulls in to focus on her – and she's just as waxen and artificial as he is. Both of them speak with bizarre dialogue, just two degrees off of normal. Eventually he walks in, and they start dating.
Then, another twist – Senator Palpatine *ahem* Palantine gets into his cab one night. When the Senator asks what he cares about, he tries to explain the human vermin wandering the streets. You see fear in the Senator's eyes... but he responds with a greasy quote about working hard and changing the system.
At this point I was intrigued by the movie. I wanted to see how these characters would interact, conflict with each other; I wanted to know why the Taxi Driver was slightly off, and why this woman seemed to mimic him. Was the violence eventually going to be about some political or moral principle? Or will it be an emotional, shattering break down like some sort of Shakespearean tragedy? Unfortunately, none of this came to pass. For some reason he takes the woman on a date to a... porno theatre? In between orgy scenes and Dutch dialogue, there's a microscopic view of sperm fertilizing an egg. Whatever. The girl is initially hesitant, but accedes to watch the film, only to storm out in disgust five minutes later. She then disappears until the ending of the film.
When he gives up on calling her, he starts stalking a 12 year old prostitute. They go for coffee, and he tries to convince her to quit. She calls him a square.
Then he buys a whole bunch of guns and builds a nifty spring-mounted holster for his arm.
Then he talks to a Secret Service agent, then wanders off.
There's a long winded conversation between him and another cab driver – okay, I missed this part because I was busy talking about how many unnecessary scenes there were in this 115 minute long movie – but the bits I did catch didn't seem that critical.
Then we watch a love scene between the 12 year old prostitute and her pimp. It's romantic, and it goes on forever. We have no idea who his character is – he's just 'the pimp.' Then the Taxi Driver shows up planning to shoot Senator Palpatine, screws up and runs away. After that he goes and shoots the pimp, the hotel owner, and a Mafioso. He then tries to commit suicide (never giving the 12 year old the money he'd set aside for her in an earlier scene), but he's out of bullets. For five long, long minutes we watch the camera pan over the bloody scene.
Then we find out that he survived, he's a hero, and the girl went back to his parents. He's back to driving a cab, hanging out with his old cab-driving buddies (who were never fleshed out) then the girlfriend from earlier in the movie asks for a ride. He drives her home, they don't talk, and he doesn't charge her for the fare. Now the movies over.
This movie fills me with rage and confusion. None of the characters are fleshed out, most of them are unnecessary to what little story there is, it's completely unrealistic – not in an artistic 'suspension of disbelief' way, just a stupid way – and I can't discern any point to this movie. Why does he call the street people scum, yet go to watch porn movies every night? What's his fundamental problem? Is he fixed at the end of the movie, and if so, what's fixed about him? All of this build up of him becoming Rambo, only to shoot three guys – and even then, screw that up badly? What about the love scene between the pimp and the 12 year old? Why the politician? And for god's sake, why were there so many dragged out, unnecessary scenes where absolutely nothing happened? 'Open to Interpretation' means that you can use a film/novel/song as a platform to discuss feminism, politics, racism, violence, human nature, and anything else – but the art itself has a distinct strand to it. This movie does not. It's sort of like the late-era Beatles' songs where they just slapped together random words... only those were at least entertaining and contained emotion. This movie had none of that. The only emotion it successfully conveyed was alienation – because I'm sure as hell feeling alienated right now.
Deep existential questions are troubling my soul – if such ugliness as this can exist, than does beauty even matter anymore? This film is so ugly, sad, and broken that compared to it the most vigorous celebration of youth, love, and beauty is nothing but whistling in the dark as the universe dissolves into entropy, a featureless room-temperature void...
I don't know if I'll ever feel joy again. Even the blue soulful depths of melancholy are a sweet fruit which will forever be gone from my life. It's with my last act of will and human charity that I beseech you – if you love yourself, then please – Don't watch Taxi Driver!
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