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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

The Walking Wounded Arms Himself to Take Care of Business

Taxi Driver (1976) on IMDb

Plot Overview

After some close-ups of the fringes of a taxi cab from various angles, we are taken to the taxi office where a 26-year-old ex-Marine, honor­ably discharged with a “clean conscience”, educated “here and there”, Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) is being inter­viewed to drive one. He figures that since “I can't sleep nights” he might as well get paid for it. He ends up “working long hours” from 6 pm to 6 am, 6–7 days a week. He observes, “All the animals come out at night: whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal.” He discovers one ray of sun­shine, though, a Palan­tine campaign volunteer Betsy (Cybill Shepherd)—“She appeared like an angel.”

Senator Palantine (Leonard Harris) is trying to beat the incumbent Goodwin in the presidential primaries. While Good­win's plat­form is: “A Return to Greatness,” i.e. more of the same, Palan­tine's is “We Are the People” with an emphasis on Are. They reject the misprinted buttons, “We Are the People” instead of “We Are the People.” This makes it an existential film.

“We” would naturally include the great diversity of New Yorkers. The epitome is given in Taxi driver scuttle­butt where in “progressive” California when a couple of “faggots” split up, one has to pay alimony. We're reminded of this in an artsy way when a burning cigarette, i.e. fag, is used to time an encounter till it's out, and when Travis constructs a quick-drop holster from a sliding drawer mechanism, and the camera dwells on the fag end of the rail he's just cut. “Are”, that is the state of being, is graphic­ally represented in a “Swedish Marriage Manual” porno movie shown with close-ups of sperm and egg uniting to produce a zygote. That's how we all came into being. A candidate who wants to emphasize being human would want to empha­size family values that would tie off­spring to natural parents. When the porno movie went into a mating free for all, Travis and Betsy had a difference of opinion (“This is a dirty movie.”)

The bus I was riding the day I saw TD stopped in its tracks next to two adjacent lanes of similarly stopped traffic­—while the inner­most lane was clear. A gaggle of ducklings following mamma duck had wandered into the road. Our bus driver got out to shoo them back onto the park by the pond. One duckling got separated from the rest, so the driver chased and caught it, then he released it in the grass. As soon as it spied its family, it went to them like a bullet. The bus cheered.

Fellow (philosophical) cabbie “Wizard” (Peter Boyle) explains to Travis (“Killer”), “You get a job, you become the job.” A bus driver or a cab driver is used to hand­ling odd ducks, so while the rest of us sit back and wait, how­ever sympathetic­ally, it's that driver of public trans­port who actively promotes the family value.


“Taxi Driver” focuses on the inner turmoil of said driver, but it's a story we've heard before if we're familiar with the Old Testament. (Eccl. 6:3-4) “If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he. For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness.” The zygote in the picture never made it to birth—“on the night shift drivin' some­body else's cab … People are born”—before our couple leaves the theater. That zygote had more peace than the jilted cabbie: A man of “contra­dictions” who tried to increase his feeling of potency (“beget an hundred children”) by watching blue movies, and when his woman blew him off, working out and stocking up on weapons (phallic symbols), keeping a running diary of his sorry life day after day (“days of his years be many.”) In an armed confron­tation, one of the parties gets wasted, and his body is treated like waste (“have no burial.”)

(Eccl. 6:5-6) “Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this hath more rest than the other. Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?” Yeah, that zygote what was never born had more rest in this picture than the driver who just gets more of the same every day with no end in sight (“One of these days I'm gonna get organiz–ized”) until he'd like to put a bullet in his head.

Production Values

Taxi Driver” (1976) was directed by Martin Scorsese, written by Paul Schrader, and it starred Robert De Niro. Each of those three persons could see him­self in the taxi driver, which helped its credibility. De Niro had to master four different personas to cover the change­able star character. Cybill Shep­herd was used properly in this picture. It also had great sup­porting roles by Peter Boyle, Albert Brooks, and a now familiar then child star Jodie Foster. The supporting actors didn't get much screen time, but they were intense while they were on.

It's rated R, pretty bloody in places, not politically correct at all, except the Studio inter­vened to make some of the criminals White. The cabbies gathered at their real-life hang­out the Belmore Cafeteria that's no longer standing. Bernard Herrmann's haunting score—with the same familiar four notes used for the final shot of “Psycho”—also contributes to this film's effec­tive­ness. The cinema­tog­raphy is awesome, especially the over­head shot of a shoot­out scene. This is a pensive flick with a lot of it shot in mirrors or reflections.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This is a hard picture to watch, because it's so brooding and not much happens for much of it, but the ending is fulfilling. I recommend it for one sitting, but don't be surprised if it ends up sitting on the shelf from then on.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action in places. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Amazing special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.