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TAXI DRIVER
Collector's Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, Cybill Shepherd, Albert Brooks, Peter Boyle
Director:  Martin Scorsese
Audio:  Dolby Digital Surround
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Sony
Features:  See Review
Length:  113 Minutes
Release Date:  August 14, 2007

"You talkin' to ME?"

Film ****

It's hard to watch a Martin Scorsese film...no matter how dark in subject matter...and not feel affected by the joy he takes in making movies.  Scorsese is more than a filmmaker, he's a fan as well, and as such, every frame of his pictures seems teething with his energy and enthusiasm.  Taxi Driver is one of his finest. Considered by some to be the best film of the 70's, it has taken its place in cinema history as a classic that has inspired countless other films in the years that followed.

This is a dark, brooding film with perhaps the ultimate anti-hero in Travis Bickle (De Niro).  When we first meet him getting his job as a taxi driver, we know something is wrong with him, although we can't identify it.  He's a man hopelessly alone, even in a crowded city like New York, and he takes the job it seems only to fill the empty hours.  Working twelve hours a night, six days a week, he meets many people, but connects with no one, instead using his position to sit back and observe what he considers the filth and sin and degradation of city life.

De Niro goes about his business in creepy, unsettling fashion, and Scorsese lets the character grow into something darker than even the audience originally guessed.  It's curious how he starts to play with guns and knives in his apartment, and training furiously like a war is about to break out.

Ultimately, he seems to find his one shot at redemption (or so he thinks) in saving a twelve year old prostitute (Foster) from her life on the street and her connection to a sleazy pimp (Keitel).  Perhaps like the many misguided souls we hear about on the news everyday, Bickle views this as his one chance to make something of himself.  What follows is one of the most brutal and bloody climaxes in film history.

It's interesting to note that an essentially unlikable character like Bickle has struck a cord with so many moviegoers over the years.  Credit that to both De Niro's performance and Scorsese's understanding of his subject matter.  Many of us have felt as alone as Bickle, and as disgusted with the world around us.  We may not go as far as he does in dealing with it, but there is something at the root of this tortured soul that's not so hard to identify with.  Considering the majority of modern headlines, Bickle seems a lot less out of his element in our world than he might have back in the 70's.

Martin Scorsese is also one of the best filmmakers to ever capture the streets of New York on celluloid.  He turns a concrete jungle into a dark, brooding world, seething with humanity on the edge.  One wonders if the city appears that way because of Travis' point of view, or if something in the nature of the city contributed to his state of mind, instead.  Perhaps a little of both.

In the end, Taxi Driver is a compelling, character driven drama that ends in the only possible fashion for Bickle and the other characters:  violently.  It's a darkly fascinating world, but you might be glad when it's over with that you can leave it once again.

BONUS TRIVIA:  The script for Taxi Driver was given to Scorsese by Brian De Palma!

Video ***1/2

This transfer is magnificent. I've never seen the movie look so good. Colors are bright and vivid with no bleeding, and images are crisp and clean throughout, even in the darker scenes, and apart from the title sequence, there is no grain or compression evident.  Overall, it's a noticeable improvement over their previous DVD release of this title. 

Audio ***

The soundtrack is a new 5.1 channel mix, with excellent depth and a strong mix that keeps the dialogue clear and the noises of the city prominent, but not overpowering.  Being an older film, there's not much use of the rear stage, except for enhancement of Bernard Herrmann's terrific jazz score.  Overall, this movie definitely got the treatment it deserved on disc.  The original 2.0 mix is also there, for purists.

Features ****

This is also one of Sony's most packed DVD offerings.  Not to be confused with the earlier release of this title, this Collector's Edition features two new commentary tracks, one by writer Paul Schrader, and one by professor Robert Kolker.  There are new featurettes on producing the movie, Martin Scorsese discussing his movie, the influence and appreciation with the likes of De Niro, Oliver Stone and more, and a discussion by Kolker and Schrader on the themes of the movie.  There are even two looks at the New York of then and now.

There are also trailers, storyboards, a terrific hour plus documentary that features nearly all major cast members and Scorsese, and a complete copy of the shooting script.  You can use your 'title' button on your remote to access the script during any scene in the movie for comparison.  Very cool package.

Summary:

Taxi Driver remains one of Martin Scorsese's finest accomplishments, and as such, stands as one of the greatest American films.  It won't please everybody because of its dark themes and violent content, but no one can deny its place as a cinematic landmark.  And for fans of the film, there has never been a better way to enjoy it at home than this Collector's Edition DVD.

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