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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Martin Scorsese
Cast:
Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel, Peter Boyle, Leonard Harris, Albert Brooks
Writing Credits:
Paul Schrader

Tagline:
On every street in every city, there's a nobody who dreams of being a somebody.

Synopsis:
At 26, Vietnam veteran Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is slipping slowly into isolation and violence on the streets of New York City. Trying to solve his insomnia by driving a yellow cab on the night shift, he grows increasingly disgusted by the people who hang out at night: "Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets." His touching attempts to woo Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), a Senator's campaign worker, turn sour when he takes her to a porn movie on their first date. He even fails in his attempt to persuade child prostitute Iris (Jodie Foster) to desert her pimp Sport (Harvey Keitel) and return to her parents and school. Driven to the edge by powerlessness, he buys four handguns and sets out to assassinate the Senator, heading for the infamy of a 'lone crazed gunman'.

Box Office:
Budget
$1.3 million.
Opening Weekend
$116.458 thousand on 8 screens.
Domestic Gross
$21.100 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Frenchy
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 114 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 5/14/2013

Bonus:
• None


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Taxi Driver [Blu-Ray 4K] (1976)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 3, 2013)

Since nine-year-olds weren't part of its target audience, I didn't know much about Taxi Driver upon its initial release in 1976. Really, my first introduction to the film came through the parodies of it featured on SCTV. These cast different actors in the role of Travis Bickle and reenacted certain scenes from the film. As such, we watched “Woody Allen” or “Gregory Peck” do the infamous “you talkin' to me?" sequence.

I never actually saw the movie itself until it ran on broadcast TV sometime in my teens. At the time, I couldn't see what all the fuss was about, but that may have had something to do with the rather radical editing required to run the movie on broadcast TV. In retrospect, it's amazing that there was anything left to show after they finished cutting. Heck, even the "you talkin' to me?" scene was nowhere to be found!

I think I might have seen Taxi Driver once on video in the late 1980s, but I'm not terribly sure. Whatever the case, I regarded my 1999 DVD viewing of it to be my first real opportunity to watch it.

It's a hard movie to judge on its own simply because it has become so firmly entrenched in the general societal awareness; I had a hard time looking at it from any other point of view. For example, on its own, the "You talkin' to me?" bit's pretty scary, but I couldn't help but laugh when it happened. All those SCTV memories came rushing back at me.

Still, Taxi Driver manages to be a fairly frightening, harrowing experience. No matter how it has permeated the public consciousness, it remains a well done kind of psychological look into the mind of a rather disturbed individual.

I think the picture works for a number of reasons, one of which stems from Robert De Niro's terrific lead performance. His acting never degenerates into any sort of caricature, something that must have been hard to avoid in such a role. De Niro plays Bickle as being scary mainly because he does seem so real. Travis isn't some raging nutbag ranting to himself on a street corner. Instead, he's a guy who's just so insulated and alone in his own world that his mind has become terribly warped and he's filled with palpable self-loathing.

At times, Bickle seems frightening because he appears fairly sympathetic. Who could look at the world in which he lives - one that features all manner of filth and degradation open to view 24 hours a day - and not feel disgusted? Granted, Travis doesn't act out of any real concern for the state of society - he's clearly mistaken his own self-hatred for concern about the greater good - but his impressions of the nasty state in which he lives are not mistaken.

The irony of the film is that through Bickle's suicidal rage, he actually accomplishes something good: Iris, the twelve-year-old prostitute he "adopts," ends up back home and off the streets. Travis becomes something of a hero and even appears to get a chance with the girl he longed for earlier in the film. Of course, the film concludes with some scenes that make it evident that Bickle's still seething and he's a time bomb that's likely to go off again at some point.

Again, De Niro aptly underplays Travis from start to finish. It's a powerful performance because he doesn't hit you over the head with Bickle's sickness. The lasting impression is that this psychopath doesn't really look any different from the vast majority of folks out there.

Director Martin Scorsese does a nice job of getting the viewer inside Bickle's head. At times it seems to be a confused movie as it jumps through different topics and focuses on various aspects of Bickle's life, but that makes sense. Travis is a tremendously messed up guy, and the disjointedness of the film communicates his status well. Sometimes the tangents don't make too much sense, but in its way, they thus make perfect sense.

In addition to De Niro, the remainder of the cast works pretty well. I think Jodie Foster is a bit too peppy and sweet as Iris – this kid really should have more of the life beaten out of her - but her performance is acceptable. I never much cared for her otherwise, but Cybill Shepherd hits all the right notes as unrequited love interest Betsy. Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel, and Peter Boyle are all just fine in their supporting roles. None really stand out, but they acquit themselves well.

The decades haven’t tamed Taxi Driver. Grim and unsettling 37 years ago, it remains that way in the 21st century. This is a strong examination of difficult subject matter.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus F

Taxi Driver appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. For the film’s second Blu-ray release, it comes as part of Sony’s “Mastered in 4K” line. What the heck does that mean? Here’s what Sony’s press release promises us:

“’Mastered in 4K’ Blu-ray releases will feature titles sourced from pristine 4K masters and presented at high-bitrate 1080p resolution, with expanded color showcasing more of the wide range of rich color contained in the original source. When upscaled via the Sony 4K Ultra HD TVs, these discs serve as an ideal way for consumers to experience near-4K picture quality. ‘Mastered in 4K’ Blu-ray Discs can be played on all existing Blu-ray Disc players.”

Old DVD fans will remember Sony’s “Superbit” program, as it came with similar promises. Superbit DVDs and “Mastered in 4K” BDs jettison all supplements to theoretically optimize picture/audio quality.

Sharpness came across well. Only a smidgen of softness emerged, and that reflected the photographic style. Overall, the movie appeared accurate and well-defined. Jagged edges and shimmering created no distractions, and I discerned no problems with edge enhancement. Source flaws also appeared absent. I noticed some natural grain but that was it, as the flick lacked specks, marks or other defects.

Driver went with a surprisingly lively palette, and the image made them look good. Even during challenging settings, the shots were pretty dynamic and full. Blacks seemed dense and deep, however, and shadows appeared reasonably clear and smooth. All in all, the movie presented a terrific transfer.

The DTS- HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Taxi Driver also did well for itself. Dialogue and effects were somewhat flat, but not horribly so, and not any more so than one would expect from a movie that's this old and this inexpensive. The score was surprisingly dynamic, as the music appeared pretty lively and tight.

As for the soundfield, it didn’t do much to expand its horizons. The music benefited the most, as the score showed nice stereo imaging throughout the flick. Effects broadened to the sides in a moderate way but didn’t do much. Nonetheless, this was a perfectly solid piece of audio for a movie from 1976, so it merited a “B+” given its age.

How did the 2013 4K Blu-ray compare with the 2011 Blu-ray? Audio appeared to be literally identical, and I’d be hard-pressed to point out any changes in the visuals. The 4K looked great, but so did the original Blu-ray; if any improvements occurred here, I didn’t notice them.

As stated earlier, the 4K line leaves out any extras. That means the commentaries and other useful elements get the boot here.

Dark and haunting, Taxi Driver provides a rich examination of a deeply troubled character. The movie paints a full picture of its subject and remains effective after 35 years. The Blu-ray presents strong picture and audio but omits all supplements. If you don’t care about bonus materials, I’d recommend this 4K Blu-ray, but I think most fans will be more than satisfied with the original Blu-ray and its long list of bonus components.

To rate this film, visit the 2007 Collector's Edition review of TAXI DRIVER

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