(Part 29 Of An Ongoing Series)
I realized that my training was useful in less than ten percent of the calls, and saving lives was rarer than that. After a while, I grew to understand that my role was less about saving lives than about bearing witness. I was a grief mop. It was enough that I simply turned up.
Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage)
Scorsese and Schrader revisit Taxi Driver through an Ambulance Driver. Instead of Travis Bickle’s Archangel of Vengeance, it’s Frank Pierce’s Angel of Noble Failure. When you save a life you feel like God, so when you hit that inevitable slump and everyone you try to save just dies on you, you feel like the opposite of God. Not Satan; an impotent nothing. Maybe the road to salvation involves helping more people die.
In ’99, you could almost feel nostalgic for early ’90s New York. Back then the embers of the 70’s-80’s hellhole were still glowing, but it wasn’t quite the post-Giuliani tourist Mecca, and “post-9/11” didn’t exist yet either. It was exciting and slightly less dangerous than the worst case scenario. Purgatory, maybe, but still one hell of a ride.
As Patricia Arquette’s Mary says, “This city…it’ll kill you if you’re not strong enough.” But Frank wisely reminds her: “This city doesn’t discriminate.” And if you really want this city to kill you, it has a funny way of shocking you back to life.