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This paper aims at analyzing two movies – Taxi Driver (1976) directed by Martin Scorsese and Red Rock West (1993) directed by John Dahl. These movies demonstrate the difficulties that main heroes who live on the edge experience in their lives. Taxi Driver is a psychological drama about the Vietnam War veteran, Travis Bickle, who experiences severe insomnia and mental disturbances. Travis finds a taxi driver job in New York in an attempt to earn some money and gain benefit out of his sleepless nights. However, this job does not bring him relief, but contributes even more to his unstable emotional condition. While driving cab, Travis meets several different people who play important role in his subsequent life. On the contrary, Red Rock West is a slightly different film that pictures the desperate state of the main hero, Michael, who tries to survive with five dollars in his pocket and gets into serious trouble in an attempt to find the way out of the situation. These movies share the same idea about the two men who try to change their joyless lives, but end in even more difficult situation instead. In this paper, I would like to trace the development of these two characters and explain what brought them to such ending.
Taxi Driver is a drama of one man who gets involved into serious mess when he tries to find his place in this world and deserve happiness. Travis Bickle is an outcast who never learned to live a normal life after the Vietnam War. In New York, he desperately tries to find sense in the surrounding world, but fails to become a part of it. In the beginning of the movie, Travis states that he cannot sleep at night. This fact explains many odd things Travis does during the film that are hard to understand sometimes. His mental instability serves as the additional challenge in his life. Travis’s inability to build healthy relationships with other people makes him even more distant fom the society. Such loneliness and alienation turn Travis into a destructive and socially dangerous person.
However, when he meets Iris, a young prostitute, Travis makes an effort to look at the world outside himself. Somehow, Travis finds sympathy for Iris in himself, and this new feeling contradicts with his misanthropy and destructivity. While being rejected by Betsy, an employee of the Palatine presidential campaign headquarters, Travis becomes aggressive and angry. Nevertheless, his feeling towards Iris does not let him become a monster ready to kill others because of his inability to fit in this world. Travis’s character is full of contradictions, and that is what makes him so interesting for the audience.
As we see how Travis’s personality transforms, we become deeply concerned about his destiny. While the audience is not introduced to Travis’s past, his experiences at war, and the events that led to his insomnia, there is uncertainty in his future as well. By the speed of his transformation into a cold-blooded warrior ready to kill without hesitation, we may suggest that his war experience significantly influenced his character. This is what makes Travis so dangerous and unpredictable in the second half of the film. However, the feelings aroused by Iris in this resolute soldier give him a chance to end as a hero rather than a bloodthirsty psychopath. While having in mind an intention to kill the presidential candidate, Travis fails his attempt and turns up at Iris’s place killing her selfish and mercenary-minded pimp instead. This event gives Iris a chance to go back home and start her life with a blank page getting out of the vicious circle that kept her trapped in New York. Under such circumstance, Travis Bickle recovers his name and becomes a hero for saving young girl’s destiny.
Apart from Travis’s character, there are other important aspects of the movie tthat make it unique and special. For example, the use of slow motion scenes underlines Travis’s attitude towards certain people. Travis is a racist, and the black people are often shown in slow motion in Taxi Driver to demonstrate how the main hero’s attention is focused on the object of his hatred. Racism is one of the major topics in this movie, and it is shown in many ways. For instance, we see that Travis attends a nighttime diner with other taxi drivers many of whom are black, and Bickle looks at most of them with scorn. Such attitude complicates Travis’s relationships with people that are quite complex even without his openly expressed racism.
Red Rock West touches upon slightly different topics, but it has the desperate man who fails to adapt to reality in the center of the plot, which makes it similar to the Taxi Driver. The main hero, Michael, is left with five dollars in his pocket and no perspectives for the nearby future. Being desperate, he decides to get involved in a questionable affair he comes across by accident. Michael poses himself as another man when Wayne, the bartender in a bar in the city Red Rock, asks if he is Lyle from Dallas. Having no idea what he gets in, Michael agrees as Wayne looks like he has a job for Lyle. To Michael’s surprise and horror, Lyle appears to be a hit man whose task is to kill Wayne’s wife, Suzanne.
As we see from the beginning of the movie, Michael is an irresolute man whose life’s inefficient decisions made him a complete loser and led him to despair. It can be suggested that Michael prefers to run away from his troubles, rather than seek for their solution. That is why he decides to run away with 10,000 dollars given to him by Wayne to complete the job. Even though Michael is timid, he has a kind heart and compassion for people. These qualities force him to warn Suzanne about her husband’s intentions before he leaves.