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31. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: Taxi Driver

August 30, 2018

Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay: Paul Schrader
Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel, Leonard Harris, Peter Boyle, Cybill Shepherd
Runtime: 113 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1976

 

★★★★★

 

One of the earliest and darkest works of Martin Scorsese and an influential piece of American cinema; Taxi Driver is a depiction of the sinister side of New York City in the dead of night, as the unstable Vietnam veteran Travis Bickle (De Niro) roams the streets and faces the cesspool first hand.

 

Paul Schrader’s screenplay sets up the foundations of his recurring trait of lead characters on a path of self-destruction. Capturing the sense of disillusionment of an entire culture following the violent conflicts of the prior decade, this is a spectacular character study examining the mind of a psychopath; a disconnected loner projecting his anger out onto the world and the people around him, in a desperate attempt to find a place in society, and De Niro vanishes under the persona.

 

He is not a hero, even though he’s like to believe himself to be the heroic gunslinger of his own story. He’s the onlooker of the crime scene fantasising about his own laudability.

 

Scorsese’s direction, Herrmann’s score and Chapman’s dark, neon-drenched cinematography brings out the grime and blackness of the image, offering a deformed conviction of Bickle’s understanding of a society which celebrates and glorifies presentation of sex and violence, a belief that is some ways solidified by the film’s genuinely shocking, blood-soaked climax. Women are to him not only visions of the lives he cannot lead, but themselves the puppets of other men that he can never be through guises of character and corporeality.

 

Cybill Shepherd is equal parts cold and stunning as campaigner Betsy, and Jodie Foster is a revelation as the young Iris, who is taken under the wing of a fantastically grotty Harvey Keitel, and becomes the desired damsel of Bickle’s suicidal martyrdom.

 

One of the eras defining pictures and Scorsese’s brilliantly malevolent masterpiece.

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