Tag Archives: Albert Brooks

“Taxi Driver” (1976) – Movie Review

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Director:  Martin Scorsese

Writer:  Paul Schrader

Stars:  Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel, Peter Boyle, and Cybill Shepherd

Taxi Driver is a warped noir film.  If the beginning where in black & white you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching an old Humphrey Bogart film.  But instead of a narration by Sam Spade you have Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro).

You are slowly introduced into Travis’ world.  Tavis is a Vietnam vet fighting personal demons as he tries to make a life as a taxi driver.  At night he drives husbands as they follow their philandering wives; couples hooking-up after a fun night out; johns with their lady of the night; all manner of lowlife he feels should be cleansed from the city.  It is during one of these shifts that he meets Iris (Jodi Foster).  Getting involved in an argument between Iris and her pimp, Sport (Harvey Keitel).

Travis also has an infatuation with Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), a campaign operative for Senator Charles Palantine.  One day he introduces himself to her, and eventually convinces Betsy to go out on a date.  Their “relationship” does not end well.  He later constantly hangs around the periphery of her life; even giving a ride to Palantine himself.

As Travis’ insomnia continues and his perception of reality becomes more and more damaged, he goes down a dark path of destruction as he attempts to become a hero to a city he has grown to hate.

Taxi Driver is very much a film of New York in the 70s.  A city on the verge of financial bankruptcy and physical decay.  The city is dangerous, dirty, and damaged.

Travis is one of many souls of New York barely getting by.  De Niro owns this role.  Allowing us into Travis’ inner turmoil and psychosis.  When we first meet him Travis is meek.  But by the climax, though physically the same, he is lean and dangerous.  He has an edge that makes you wary.  As for the rest of the supporting characters, they each hold their own.  Stand-outs include Albert Brooks and Peter Doyle.  Each acting and behaving in the way we come to expect when we see them performing, but in this case early in their career.  Harvey Keitel is unrecognizable in his short role as Sport, and Jodi Foster makes an impression as Iris.  The weakest link in the cast is Cybill Shepard.  She never conveys why Travis is so infatuated with her.  Betsy comes across as a blank.

As for the script, it does an excellent job bringing you into Travis’ world and making you understand where he is coming from and where he is going.  The one failing is the ending, which left me scratching my head.  After all that happened how can there be no scars?  How can life go on as if nothing happened?  How are there no ramifications?  If the film had just ended before the phone message narration it would have been perfect.

Grade = B+


“Drive” – Review

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Director:  Nicholas Winding Refn

Writer:  Hossein Amini

Stars:  Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman & Albert Brooks

The best movie of the year so far.  The movie follows The Driver aka The Kid (Ryan Gosling) as he finds something resembling a soul when he develops an emotional attachment to his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son, Benicio (Kaden Leos).  You learn that his regular job is a mechanic at Shannon’s (Bryan Cranston) shop for cars used in Hollywood films; he is also a sometimes stunt driver and a driver of getaway cars in heists.  Irene is a mother barely getting by waiting for her husband, Standard Gabriel, to get out of jail.  The Driver and Irene develop an emotionally charged platonic relationship, and her son starts looking up to him as a role model.  Then everything changes when Standard is released.  He tries to lead the straight life but is brought back into a life of crime because of debts he owes from his time in jail.  In order to get Benicio and Irene out of danger, the Driver agrees to help Standard; then all hell breaks loose.

The look of the movie is great, reminiscent of Miami Vice the movie.  The sound of the film is more like Miami Vice the TV show, but updated to a current audience.  The overall feel is of a gritty 70s film.  I can’t say the screenplay is the best, but the director (Nicholas Winding Refn) does a great job moving the story forward.  The other incredible thing he does is shocking the audience with violence.  There are not many violent scenes in this film, but when they are there you feel them and are repulsed.    Audience members in my screening audibly gasped.

The acting is superb, starting with Ryan Gosling.  This film lives and dies by his performance, and he is more than capable.  He has very little dialogue but communicates through his eyes and body language.  The only flaw with the performance was physical–personally I would have prefered someone with a more weathered face; but that is trivial.  Albert Brooks is a revelation.  He basically plays a psychotic version of a typical Albert Brooks performance.  As for the other actors and their characters, they are also good.

After the initial action set piece, the movie has a slow burn with a great payoff.  You get drawn into The Driver’s world and feel the tension as time goes on.  This is a film that should be seen on the big screen.

Grade:  A-

PS  During the first few scenes after the initial heist, I couldn’t help thinking of Brooke Shield’s early 80s Calvin Klein jean ads, “You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvin’s?  Nothing”  Damn, if it didn’t look like Ryan Gosling’s jeans were painted on.