Taxi Driver – review

There I was, fully engaged with this terrific portrait of white male psychopathy. Robert De Niro’s performance – at once vacant and fiercely intense – does the business as taxi driver Travis Bickle. But the writing is good too. We understand Bickle’s thoughts, his actions, his desperation, completely. A former marine who drives all night because he can’t sleep. A loner who obsesses about women, but has zero interest in the minds of others. A man with no passions, whose only idea of a movie is a porno. A cabbie who grows to despise the nighthawks that treat him like trash, which also informs his broiling racism. A schizoid who doesn’t realise just how sick he is. It’s a thorough examination of a broken man, and only heading in one direction. Then it chickened out. The introduction of a subplot involving a child prostitute confuses its final act, rehabilitating Bickle’s fractured rage as righteous indignation. Its final scenes go even further, attempting to manufacture ostensible moral ambiguity. There was nothing morally ambiguous about its parting shots; to be morally ambiguous you have to have something to say. Sometimes psychos kill bad people and not good ones because senatorial security beats a pimp’s? Yeeah. As a self-contained character study of an absolute on the fringes, this shines. As a thought-provoking social commentary, not so much.

A-

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