Warhawk’s review published on Letterboxd:
I haven't found enough good to back why this film is so highly rated. Most reviews I've read just say they like it and their reasoning seems very emotionally connected rather than logical, which I found interesting. It seems to be trying to address certain aspects of life in a way that is visual and understandable, but it feels like a little bit of a failure to me in some ways after studying mass shooters.
Taxi Driver in at least it's ending shows that sometimes a hero or villain is perceived by just their broadcasted actions, even if their intent was not always pure. This is something that you notice with hero worship. It is almost impossible to find someone without major fault who has garnered media attention. MLK Jr (infidelity), Gandhi (slept naked with little girls), Mandela (pro-communist, pro-Gadhafi, and part of the militant arm of the ANC), JFK (infidelity)(and my parenthesis for all these people probably don't cover the half of it), probably most of the founding fathers (slavery, infidelity, who knows what else), anybody at all that has received limelight for doing something good seems to have skeletons in their closet. We admire the good things while shunning (not forgetting) the bad ones, which is difficult in a world that seems decided that if you ever did something bad as a public figure you should no longer be one or if any group ever did something bad we ought to shun them from society too. I don't know what the answer to that particular problem is though, because generally the leaders did awful things to become leaders within politics, no matter the society, west or east.
Travis seems to feel like his choices have been taken away from him because he doesn't have much of a say in society, and this simply isn't true. His decisions directly affect the people he interacts with and within his sphere of influence his choices have a lot of say in society. This is not generally the full extent that mass shooters seem to get to though, or even assassins. Assassins seem to often want the spotlight aspect, and mass shooters almost universally have embraced nihilism and the end to value, which is I believe the end result of a morally paradoxical society. I just watched a interview with a sicario from Mexico who would not be considered a psychopath or sociopath to a psychologist, but his ideology has him convinced that his line of work is functional and rationalized. No mass shooter has been found not guilty by reason of insanity since the 80s. These are not mentally incapacitated people without true choice, this problem is a loss in the value of human life.
The whole buying guns and weapons thing seemed very biased and inaccurate. Sellers of guns had to have a license at the time and those guns had traceable serial numbers (but of course the guy is also selling drugs so I'm guessing he got the guns black market and not through the proper channels anyway, making gun control worthless to stop this buy), the 1908 Colt being called an "automatic" was really silly since it's a semi-auto, even though it's a black market deal it seems to be pushed off as how everyone gets guns, the fact that he is a Vietnam vet and also seems to have no idea what a gun is at first makes no sense, and his silly working himself up in his apartment is ridiculous if you've ever met a real marine.
Travis' fixation that Palantine needs to die makes absolutely no sense, since nothing the guy said to him or said in the news is connected to his idea that the streets are filled with scum. Even if you try to join the disconnected dots into the picture of him seeing society as being the problem, that is a huge stretch of the imagination to connect one (fairly unrelated to the problem) man to a mass of impoverished people being evil. The slogan "We are the people" I guess can be interpreted weirdly as "the politicians are the people," but it doesn't sound anywhere near as coherent as the connections real killers make (which should show how disjointed this narrative is, if those guys in comparison look like they actually make sense).
The film was often very uncomfortable for me to watch, especially the second-hand embarrassment I felt watching Travis fail with Betsy, and the scenes with 13 year old Jodi Foster being a prostitute. The score and cinematography was really good however, and I thought the acting was generally quite good as well. Not my thing, you probably won't catch me watching it again, and though I can see this being popular only a few years after JFK's assassination, I still don't really see why it resonates so well with contemporary people and garners such a high rating.