Dempsey, Michael. "Taxi Driver Review" Film Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 4, (1976 ), pp. 37-41
Michael Dempsey’s article provides a critical review of Taxi Driver. The film’s major characters and scenes are highlighted and discussed thoroughly. Certain plot line improbabilities are reviewed to point out some of the film’s shortcomings. For example, Dempsey questions Travis’ naivety in taking Betsy to see a hard-core porno movie on their second date. Travis’ gaffe is difficult to accept as he claims not to have known that any other kind of movie exists or that pornography would upset the woman he has cast as his “angel.” Who can believe that a cabdriver, witnessing and hearing every variety of human kinkiness, spending hours himself in scummy porn theaters, would be this naP?ve? Dempsey asserts that Scorsese and Schrader have both gone on record saying that Travis’ blunder with Betsy is an unconscious act of self-destruction and proof of how isolated from human life Travis has become. Dempsey argues that Scorsese and Schrader purposely eliminated Taxi Driver’s lead female character because they preferred the certainty of blood and a more commercial “shoot-em up” climatic ending to the chance of love.
Interestingly, Dempsey interprets the film in a religious context, citing the repressive Protestant fundamentalism of Schrader’s youth and its effect on the script. He compares Travis to a mythic icon or secular saint, a lowlife Christ that has come to “cleanse the temple of moneylenders.” When a dealer lays out his inventory of guns for Travis, painstakingly cataloguing the power and caliber of each, Dempsey argues the scene is intentionally sacramental with Travis and the dealer handling the weapons like chalices. When Travis prepares for violence with exercising, dieting, fast-draw target practice before a mirror, and a Mohawk haircut, Dempsey asserts that these ritual preparations of the body looks like a priest vesting for Mass. The author also discusses how the ending conforms to some Hollywood cliches, such as the revenge ending, which provides a purely physical jolt and obtains nothing more than a reflex-reaction.
Ultimately, this article breaks down Taxi Driver’s minor plot impossibilities and how religious connotations tie into the understanding of the film.