With Robert De Niro, Cybil Shepard, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, Albert Brooks, Leonard Harris, Peter Boyle
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Reviewed by JB

Sid Dithers lost out on this part      Fresh from the success of the mainstream ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANY MORE, Scorsese returned to his New York street roots, filming a disturbing script by Paul Schraeder about a lonely, mentally unstable taxi driver.  Although it was a thoughtful, moody character study, the presence of Robert De Niro plus a violent ending made TAXI DRIVER a surprising box office success.

    Some films show how normal people can slowly descend into madness; many of Martin Scorsese's characters are already halfway there by the opening fade-in.  Cab driver Travis Bickle is the first in a line of several De Niro characters outside of mainstream humanity who fall further and further out of touch with life. He would be followed by the likes of Jake La Motta (RAGING BULL) and Rupert Pupkin (THE KING OF COMEDY).  Why we should be so interested in madmen is hard to explain, but the combination of Scorsese as director and De Niro as star is impossible to ignore.  By now it was clear that De Niro was a star and a major talent, having dazzled critics as the hyperactive Johnny Boy in MEAN STREETS and the stoic Don Corleone in THE GODFATHER PART 2, for which he won an Oscar.  His Travis Bickle is yet another outstanding characterization, De Niro capturing depths of loneliness and despair rarely seen in films.  His fall into complete madness is utterly believable, and the final product - a robotic mohawked killing machine with guns and knives hidden all over his body - is more frightening than even some of the actor's later turns in CAPE FEAR (1991) or FRANKENSTEIN (1994).

    Scorsese would go on to make more excellent films, but arguably, only RAGING BULL and GOODFELLAS (both also starring De Niro) would rival TAXI DRIVER as the director's best ever.  Not for all tastes, which should go without saying when we're talking about Martin Scorsese.

Martin Scorsese     The Stuff You Gotta Watch


"You talkin' to me?... You talkin' to me?... You talkin' to me?... Well, then who the hell else are you talkin' - you talkin' to me?.... Well, I'm the only one here.... Who the f**k do you think you're talking to?  Oh, yeah?  Yeah?  Okay...."


Director Martin Scorsese appears twice in the film.  When the Cybil Shepard's character is introduced, Scorsese can easily be spotted in the background watching her.  Later, he appears as one of De Niro's passengers, presumably a different character.   This unusual double-cameo resulted when the original actor slated to be the passenger was unable to do the scene due to injuries suffered on another film.  Scorsese took the part himself, and is excellent as the only character in the film who may be more frightening than Travis Bickle himself.

Stuff You Gotta Watch
Copyright © 2010 John V. Brennan, John Larrabee