The story of this film is based on life of Jake Lamotta, one of the best middleweight boxers America has known. This film mostly focuses on Lamotta’s career and personal life from 1941 to 1964.
Robert deNiro portrayed the evil part of Jake Lamotta that people forgot or do not want to remember. DeNiro won the best actor for this 1980 movie. In all there were 8 Oscar nominations for this film. The list included nomination of Joe Pesci as Best supporting actor and Cathy Moriarty as Best supporting actress. However, only 2 of these Academy awards were won. The film is directed by Martin Scorsese and edited by Thelma Schoonmaker. Schoonmaker is the other academy award winner for this film.
Basically, this is less of a conventional movie story that makes people worship the hero. It is more of narration of all that was wrong with it portrayed in black and white to take people back in time. Lamotta began earning as street fighter at a very young age, thanks to his father who encouraged him to do so. The money people gave to see the little boy fight was enough to pay rent. It was not until he turned 19 that he began earning as a professional. The movie shows the hero with his negative sides as well. There is sibling rivalry, as well as self destructive and self injury causing tendencies shown. Domestic abuse and irrational all consuming jealousy were a part of Lamotta during his heydays. Boxing perhaps became a way to do it all legally for him. Here his brutish inhuman and mean behavior found an outlet. The downfall was after 83 wins, 4 draws, and 19 knockouts. Married life was a casualty. But the man has survived defeat in the hands of Sugar Ray Robinson, stepping down to running club and ending as a lewd comedian and actor.
The movie is about Travis Bickle, a marine who has been honorably discharged. He begins moonlighting in New York City as a taxi driver. His amorous feelings are rebuffed by Betsy. Travis finds a lot of unacceptable crimes happening around him, and has problems with reconciling between the disciplined life of a marine and chaotic world outside. He becomes sort of vigilante and receives support of people for such actions.
Robert De Niro acted as Travis. Jodie Foster acted in this movie as a young prostitute. The role of Betsy was played by Cybill Shepherd. Martin Scorsese directed this movie. Paul Schrader wrote its story. This 1976 movie was nominated for four Oscars but won none of them.
The story does raise many questions about the society we live in. The marine goes all the way out to protect people and society, risking his life and often becoming maimed for life. But back home, there seems nothing to protect with pimps taking charge of little girls and abusing them. There are senators who talk but do little or nothing about what the common man needs. At such moments, a trained person who becomes sort of vigilante is somebody whom people are not going to expose or even condemn. He would become a hero and society would have to accept that he is a hero in their chaotic environment as well. Once the acceptance of society is received by the taxi driver, his transition into the new life, becomes more acceptable to him and the rest of the world. Of course, he does not want to remain vigilante forever, and in fact did not want that role. But the fact that he was able to stand up against something meant something to him and forced the society to acknowledge its value. The movie is symbolic all the way for those who understand it at deeper levels.