Posted in: Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on August 9th, 2007
There must be very few people out there who havenâ€™t seen Taxi Driver or at the very least muttered the words, â€œyou talking to me?â€ Regardless, this thirty year old film is easily a classic, and still on the top of many critics lists. It marked the blooming of an epic and ongoing relationship between Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese, the spawn of Jodie Fosterâ€™s career and arguably Harvey Keitelâ€™s as well. At any rate Taxi Driver managed to receive four Academy award nominations as well as gaining a huge cult following. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s a surprise that Iâ€™ve already seen and love this movie, but how does the newly released DVD pan out?
Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro, Heat) is an ex-marine who had recently fought in the Vietnam War. He has since developed several psychological disabilities as showcased throughout the movie including insomnia, obsession, and depression. He works as a nighttime taxi driver and spends his sleepless days in pornography movie theatres or watching presidential aide Betsy (Cybill Shepherd, Alice). He finally garners the courage to approach Betsy and ask her on a date, initially she in intrigued by Travis, but after he takes her on a date to a pornographic film she ditches him and takes a cab home. This acts as a catalyst for Travisâ€™ depression and increasingly paranoid and delusional behavior. He begins having vigilante fantasies and acquires several handguns. One night a 12 year prostitute named Iris (Jodie Foster, Silence of the Lambs) jumps in to his cab trying to escape a beating from her pimp. Travis has a moment of realization about the decaying world around him. From here he begins toying with the notion of killing Senator Charles Palatine and Irisâ€™ pimp (Harvey Keitel, Reservoir Dogs).
From start to finish Taxi Driver is an extremely engaging movie with some superb acting and character development. But apart from the great story and writing, what really did it for me was Robert DeNiro. His portrayal as Travis Bickle is one of his best to date.
So for those of you who havenâ€™t seen this movie in years I think its about time to pick yourself up the newly released DVD and revisit this cult classic. If you havenâ€™t even seen this one yet, I recommend you do, especially if youâ€™re a fan of Scorsese and/or DeNiro.
Presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio Taxi Driver comes to DVD yet again, but for a film thatâ€™s over thirty years old, the improvements are noticeable in this release. The grittiness of 70â€™s New York is perfectly captured by Scorsese, the new transfer replicates this feel well. Colors look decent, with flesh tones looking realistic and the streets of New York looking drab. The print itself is surprisingly clean with no visible speckling and a low amount of grain. The grain itself does a good job increasing the dirty look of the streets but never becomes distracting.
The main problem with the transfer is that it is extremely soft looking, blocking almost all detail; facial detail is unfortunately lost due to this. Still, when you consider the age of this movie, there is no denying that this transfer is a definite improvement over previous editions.
Sony has included a 5.1 Dolby Digital track for Taxi Driver; unfortunately it is extremely front heavy, rarely emitting substance from the rear channels. The narrative from Travis Bickle sounds muffled coming through the front channels, luckily dialogue from the film sounds a lot clearer. The sounds from the streets of New York come through all channels creating an impressive ambiance and liven up the track quite a bit. When Travis goes on his rampage at the end of the film, gunshots ring through all the channels effectively creating an impressive sound field. Compared to the track found on prior releases, this one offers a noticeable upgrade. All in all the 5.1 track does the best it can with the material.
The two disc release is full of special features all of which are interesting. The massive amount of information given out through the featurettes warrants a look from everyone who enjoys this film.
- Audio Commentary - Commentary track with either Professor Robert Kolker or Writer Paul Schrader.
- Screenplay - Navigate between the film and the actual movie screenplay. This provides a good transition piece as we see how the scenes were written.
- Featurettes-A massive 8 piece feature that covers every pre production aspect you could think of. The first feature with Martin Scorsese, which spans 17 minutes, is by far the most interesting. Scorsese discusses how he came across the Taxi Driver script. The studio wanted Dustin Hoffman for the lead but luckily he was busy eventually landing Robert DeNiro as the role of Travis Bickle. Other features include an in depth making of feature (1hr 10min) and a appreciation piece on Scorsese, with interviews with DeNiro and Oliver Stone. An interesting feature titled â€œTaxi Driver Storiesâ€ takes us around with real drivers who drove a Taxi in the 70â€™s. The stories some of these guys share are truly amazing, almost all of which are shown in Taxi Driver.
- Intro to Storyboards – Martin Scorsese discusses why he decided to storyboard the film. As always Scorsese provides a massive amount of information about the subject.
- Story Board to Film Comparison – A side by side comparison of story board and film.
- Galleries - 4 various sets of production stills.
Truly a classic film, to be enjoyed by many generations to come. The film is as memorable as I remember and the newly packaged DVD is a great buy for fans. The audio and video seem to have improved slightly over previous versions, but what makes this disc worthwhile is the collection of new features. At any rate this disc is a good purchase for fans of the movie, and if you havenâ€™t even seen it yet I suggest you do as soon as possible.