I've seen Taxi Driver beginning to end 3 times now. The first time I just out and out hated it, and the 2nd wasn't an improvement. But I haven't seen it since 1990 and since then I've come around to loving Mean Streets and they released a Blu-Ray so I went at it once again.
This time I was considerably more impressed, and I realized where my problem is. It's the script. This is a lurid character study directed and acted with a lot of finesse. You see Bickle's arc and it's very convincing. Paul Schrader's writing, however, has no finesse. It's a blunt tool, and loaded with a pretentious amount of self importance to boot. The trajectory of this thing is very clunky from scene to scene, but within those scenes, Scorsese holds on DeNiro long enough to let the character come through.
Looking through his IMDB page
, I've held this opinion about nearly all of Schrader's writing. Last Temptation is probably his best work, but they're all unsubtle morality plays that live or die by the other talent involved.
Harvey Keitel is laughable in a terrible casting decision. He doesn't fit at all, but is trying like an actor to method the part and Scorsese holds on his scenes for too long. The scene with Jodie Foster before the climax is not only stupid it's very very dull. I also really don't get the climax, which is nothing more than typical grindhouse trash. The red lights, lingering blood shots and hysterics make it play like the trailer to Hobo With a Shotgun. It was probably shocking that this kind of violence was playing to mass audiences back in the 70s, but now we know there were other examples of baseline thrill kills in sleazier theaters.GRADE: ***
, for Scorsese and DeNiro