An insomniac taxi driver sees the true colors while driving in the streets of New York, to which he believes it is his duty to bring about justice.
I definitely see the inspiration behind “Joker” (2019).
The character of Travis Bickle, played by Robert De Niro, was an awesome character. From the very start, when he was applying for his taxi job, one got a sense of the personality he let off. Behind the outer shell which was awkward, shy, and quirky, there was something not right sitting underneath. Something bubbling up, waiting to be let loose because of all the filth and trash that Bickle saw every night while out on the job. That two-halves idea correlated to the idea of how he perceived the city. Behind the beautiful colors, there was a dark underbelly due to how there were people doing all sorts of cruel and evil deeds. As he himself put it, “I’m God’s lonely man.” Bickle felts it’s his responsibility to clean up the city. One gravitated toward the emotions he was feeling inside because honestly, the depiction of New York City in this movie, was not that far off from the real world.
The opening scene with the taxi rolling through the fog and it driving in the streets with the neon light-style credits, while the excellent jazzy theme orchestrated by Bernard Herrmann, set the mood perfectly. The theme was the kind that one can simply sit back and drive all night like Bickle. It’s comforting for some time, but very soon, it can hit hard with a sudden blast.
Throughout the movie, narrations of Bickle occurred and they weren’t annoying by any means. These were great at going into the mind of the character.
Much like “Joker,” the movie was primarily focused on the main character. Though this film handled it a bit better. The supporting characters were there as gateways to better understand Bickle’s character. The Wizard, played by Peter Boyle, talked about how a person’s job is what creates that person. Betsy, played by Cybill Shephard, stated that Bickle was a walking contradiction. Iris, played by Jodie Foster, stated that Bickle was a scorpion.
These conversations really bring forth quite of bit of speculations as to why Bickle would do the things he would do. The nicknames he was given in the film were “Killer” and “Cowboy.” Two titles that invoke different ideologies, but the main character encompasses both. He wanted to do the right thing by washing away the scum, but his methods of doing so were extreme. In which he would be classified as “chaotically good.” Or better yet neutral, because his face and attitude screamed unpredictable. One doesn’t fully know which side Bickle was going to lean into.
Bickle did some things differently, activities out of his zone that he believed would be beneficial for his health and well-being. But sooner or later, he fell right back to basics. But this tied into the walking contradiction remark, demonstrating how he hated one thing and one minute liked it. Bickle, was a socially awkward man, who wanted to desperately seek attention. While he felt the city deserved to rot in hell, he always wanted an opportunity or a chance to be accepted into society, to be happy. Going out on dates, trying to make friends, or simply being “hip” with the crowd. However, the cruelness of society struck his nerves, thus resulting in him committing the actions that made him happy on the other end of the spectrum.
The Scorpio bit had me do some digging, once I was able to see the traits and attributes associated with the sign, it made total sense. Iris clearly saw the kind of person Bickle was. A person that can steer in any direction with no care where it leads. These individuals want one who is honest and pure. They are willing to do anything to make their partner as happy as they can be.
One piece of information in the conversation between Bickle and Iris, was Iris calling Bookie a Narc. It made me wonder about his past, of being a Marine. Sure he was honorably discharged, but did time in service warped his mind. With all the deaths and causalities he witnessed. it’s very possible the cruelty of war, translated smoothly to the cruelty of the modern jungle. The two environments blended so well in his eyes, that he needed to arm and prepare himself whenever the threat was near. Is Bickle suffering from PTSD? Maybe.
Much like how the world psychologically impacted Bickle, the film itself would do the same. From the climax up until the end, the film did a really good job of keeping the feel to the low. One doesn’t exactly know if the ending shown was real. The way the cinematography was done in the taxi, how the camera focused on Bickle’s face up-close and showed Betsy’s face on the rear window, gave the impression of being dream-like in nature. The film’s ending being the same as the beginning, invoked a cycle. Could it be that Bickle did die in the climax and he was reliving the events leading up to the inevitable? Is Bickle punished and must relive the events over and over for all eternity?
There were many other theories and speculations that I’m sure swept over my head. I didn’t read it in-depth, but I noticed an article dealing with how the film showcased anti-imperialism. That got me thinking about the one scene nearing the climax where the character of Sport, played Harvey Keitel, told Bickle to go back to his tribe. That also got me thinking, is Bickle Native American? Is this film showcasing a Native American whose fighting back against those who have taken and tarnished his land? Granted that might be complete nonsense, but it was something that definitely caught my attention. I’ll be sure to read that particular article.
The film had some little touches I really admired. The moment after the infamous “You talkin’ to me” line, the film cuts to itself as Bickle was trying to formulate a good speech.
Negatives I have were pretty minor.
I kept battling with the idea of how Bickle never did enough action. He only ever shot the robber, he failed in assassinating the senator, and he successfully killed off the pimps in the climax. I was expecting he would have done more, but at the same time, I went back to the walking contradiction piece. This was a man who wrote about the change he was willing to do, but as the film showcased with the conversations with the supporting cast, I believe that may have been the things that held Bickle back. They were a sign to show him that not everything was all gloom and miserable, there was hope. Again, deep down, I’m sure, even with harshness the city bugging him, Bickle tried to move it aside and to make the best that he possibly could be.
The film utilized the main theme a tad much. Or I should say, utilized it, and changed it slightly in either tempo, keys, etc. There were other good themes used and the changes in the main theme did correlate well with the emotion portrayed in the scene when those pieces played. But I wish Herrmann branched off and created newer pieces.
A classic that for sure has rewatchability written all over it. With its fascinating main lead, nice noir-visuals, a catchy theme, and a psychological, thriller tone that will have one biting their nails and guessing what the overlying message is. If you haven’t watched this, please watch it IMMEDIATELY. You won’t be disappointed. I can say now that I’ve seen this, I think I might reconsider changing my opinion some on “Joker” (2019).
YouTube: Tk Theater Productions/LoneCentric Pictures