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 Huggo
February 8, 1976
Every once in a while, a character transcends a movie and becomes larger than the movie that features it. Robert De Niro’s portrayal of Travis Bickle is one of those. Not to take anything away from the great directing of Martin Scorsese’s, or the phenomenal screenplay by Paul Schrader. Never has been there been a better anti-hero than Travis Bickle. The character perfectly represents the time and the place in American history. Travis is a cross section of the American public. The angry white population who stuck around the gritty, dark streets of New York post white flight. The Vietnam vet, disillusioned by the country he fought for and the America who welcomed him home with protest signs. He wants little more to find the love and happiness the “Happy Camper” parents who raised him found. He is wrought with distrust of government and a strong distaste for the people who occupy the city of which he calls home. He is not the protagonist who rides off into the sunset with Betsy, played by Cybill Shepard; although he would love little more than to do so.
Even his White Knight ride into save the damsel in distress, played by Jodi Foster reflects a dark ravenous need for carnage. Violence on par with Clockwork Orange (1971), a film its pier on the level of controversial violence for its time.
It would be hard to recast a film this iconic, but here goes. Dave Franco as Travis Bickle, Emma Stone as Betsy and Chloe Grace Moritz as Iris would be worth the watch. I say Dave Franco because his Neighbors (2014) impression of Meet the Parents (2000) Robert De Niro needs more screen time.
In total, Taxi Driver remains a strong piece of the AFI 100. For those who only know De’ Niro and Scorsese from their contemporary successes, you are doing yourself a great disservice. Treat yourself to what got them there, Taxi Driver.
Marty, Marty, Marty. Growing up loving Scorsese through the likes of The Departed, Wolf of Wall Street and (my #1 movie) Casino, it’s interesting going back to his earlier work. His voice and style is clear from 1976 to today. If you are like me and you tend to avoid movies made before you were born, open up to Taxi Driver and you won’t be disappointed.
Not knowing anything about the movie (other than the line “You’re looking at me?!?!”) made it interesting to follow the journey of Travis Bickle. Travis, played by the young and handsome Robert DeNiro, is a character you question your loyalty to throughout the film. Our minds keeps wanting to “figure out” Travis and put him in a box — he is the jerk? The ladies man? The dirty guy? The bad guy? The hero?
It almost gets a bit frustrating that you can’t label Travis… but then again, can we really label anyone? Movies give us absolutes to tell us a story: Here’s the perfect athlete — he’ll score the winning touchdown. Here’s the ugly duckling — she’ll get a make-over and everyone will know how beautiful she is on the inside and the outside. Here’s the bad guy — he seems to have poor hygiene and only wants power. It’s easy to label who is who and just follow the story. Taxi Driver’s Travis never gets labeled … or is labeled so many roles you can’t keep up. Following the life of just one New York taxi driver you are reminded that everyone has their story, their past, their dreams, their desires … and it’s never as clear as we would like it to be in 90 minutes or less.
I particularly enjoy the movie poster we feature in this post as it quickly illustrates what I watched — following the journey of one “ordinary” taxi driver in the busy streets of New York.
In typical Scorsese style, I do believe the movie could have edited out 15 minutes or so. Yes, I’ll admit I fell asleep during it and had to catch the last 20 minutes the next morning. You will find I have a knack for not staying awake for any movie that lasts more than my ideal 90 minute mark. (Gatsby took me two full nights to complete – and I loved it!) Sometimes I think scenes take just a bit too long trying to get the point across. That said, I’m someone that builds 140-character tweets and 90 second brand videos for a living… clearly patience is definitely a weakness for me.
If you are tired of the same ‘ol options and it’s your turn to pick, travel back to 1976 and check out Taxi Driver. You’ll continue to admire Scorsese, DeNiro and the beautiful Cybill Shepherd. If anything else, you’ll be reminded of how dirty New York seemed to be in the 70’s, the awesome Coca-Cola and Doritos packaging and the good ‘ole days of $0.65 taxi rides.