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With: Robert De Niro, Cybill Shepherd, Peter Boyle, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, Leonard Harris, Albert Brooks, Martin Scorsese
Written by: Paul Schrader
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 113
Date: 02/07/1976

Taxi Driver (1976)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Talkin' to Me

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver is acclaimed for its gritty realism, but it has an equal amount of cinematic reverie; screenwriter Paul Schrader contributed just as much to the film's Dostoyevskian vision. Its famous "overhead" murder shot and the steam rising from the sewer grates add up to a unique visual poetry.

Robert De Niro stars as Travis Bickle, a war veteran (though the war is hardly mentioned) who lands a job as a nighttime New York City cab driver. Despite his disturbing issues with women and a self-righteous streak, De Niro makes Travis one of the most compelling characters in cinema history. He attempts to woo a high-class campaign worker, Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), at the headquarters for Senator Palantine (Leonard Harris). When that fails he channels his energy into rescuing a teenage hooker (Jodie Foster) and becomes obsessed with the Senator.

Scorsese populates the rest of the cast with memorable characters: Albert Brooks as an emasculated colleague of Betsy's, Peter Boyle as another, cheerier cabbie, and Harvey Keitel as a smooth-talking pimp. Aside from De Niro, however, it's Foster who comes across as the most frighteningly memorable, with her pint-sized intelligence and ferocity. Scorsese himself of course appears as a psychotic passenger.

The great Bernard Herrmann provided the seedy jazz score -- the first time in years that a director did not ask him to copy his work with Hitchcock. Michael Chapman was the DP.

In 2016, for the film's 40th anniversary, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released a spectacular, essential 2-Blu-ray set, with the film offered in a new high-definition transfer. As good as it looks here, it still has not lost any of its glorious grittiness or sleaze. Among the many extras, we have a new Q&A, filmed at the Tribeca Film Festival, with Scorsese, De Niro, Foster, Shepherd, Schrader, Keitel, and others. We have the original 1986 Scorsese commentary track (presumably recorded for laserdisc), as well as other commentary tracks by Schrader and by professor Robert Kolker. There are several shorter featurettes as well.

On the second disc, we get several featurettes, including a one-hour "making of," storyboards, galleries, etc. This is a perfect gift for any movie buff.

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