Raging Bull (1980) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta
Joe Pesci as Joey LaMotta
Cathy Moriarty as Vickie LaMotta
Nicholas Colasanto as Tommy Como
Director: Martin Scorsese

When Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro) steps into a boxing ring and obliterates his opponent, he’s a prizefighter. But when he treats his family and friends the same way, he’s a ticking time bomb, ready to go off at any moment. Though LaMotta wants his family’s love, something always seems to come between them. Perhaps it’s his violent bouts of paranoia and jealousy. This kind of rage helped make him a champ, but in real life, the winds up in the ring alone.

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3 years after a movie known as one of his weakest with New York, New York, Martin Scorsese made one of the best films of his career. I had been meaning to give Raging Bull a rewatch for some time as it’s been years since I’ve seen it for the first time, and with my recent viewing of many of Scorsese’s films, there was no better time. Raging Bull nearly 40 years later remains an absolutely masterful, if hard to watch, film.

Raging Bull may be about a boxer but the boxing itself isn’t the focus of the movie. It’s about real life boxer Jake LaMotta and his self destructive life. Saying that Jake LaMotta isn’t a good person would be quite an understatement, it doesn’t try to give you a reason to sympathise with him. It really doesn’t hold back in showing the brutal truth. It’s definitely not an easy movie to watch, only check it out if you’re ready for it really.

Robert De Niro gives one of the greatest performances of his career as Jake LaMotta. He’s transformative both as the fit Jake LaMotta earlier in his career, as well as the older and retired Jake LaMotta with more weight. Again, LaMotta really doesn’t have any redeeming qualities at all, with his mistrust, rage, outbursts, and self loathing alienating everyone around him. Yet De Niro manages to make him an human angle that works and makes him feels like a complex person, and still rather compelling to watch. The supporting cast also do well, with Cathy Moriarty playing Jake’s eventual wife and Joe Pesci playing Jake’s brother. Pesci and De Niro particularly have great chemistry together, really feeling like brothers.

Martin Scorsese directed this film immaculately, at the time of filming he thought that this might be his last film, and you certainly feel it in his work here. Although the black and white certainly helps with the violence with the colour of blood during boxing scenes, it also does something with the tone that makes it work, not to mention differentiates it from other boxing movies. The fighting scenes aren’t necessarily the focus of the movie but they are filmed masterfully. Unlike other boxing movies made at the time like Rocky, Raging Bull actually places the camera inside the ring along with the fighters. The violence both inside and outside the ring are harsh and brutal, and you feel every blow. Raging Bull is also edited extremely well, this marks the first time since Who’s that Knocking at My Door that Martin Scorsese would work with legendary editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and her work here is nothing short of fantastic. And with their work here you can see why Scorsese and Schoonmaker worked together on each of his movies from this point onwards.

Raging Bull is definitely a tough watch, but it’s a fantastic film on every level. Martin Scorsese is at the top of his game here, and the performances are great, especially from Robert De Niro, giving one of his all time best performances. It’s not a movie that you watch over and over again, but it is worth watching at least once.

1 thought on “Raging Bull (1980) Review

  1. Pingback: Martin Scorsese Films Ranked | The Cinema Critic

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