Raging Bull (1980) * Top Pick *

bull!

Genre: Sports Drama

Starring: Robert DeNiro (GoodfellasMeet The Parents), Joe Pesci (CasinoMy Cousin Vinny)

Directed By: Martin Scorsese (Taxi DriverThe Departed)

Overview: This is the story of a middleweight boxer's trials and tribulations with his brother, his wife, and himself.

Feel free to click here to skip the spoiler bit at the beginning.


At one point in Raging Bull, our characters talk about how people are afraid to fight LaMotta, until one young fighter challenges him. Tony Janiro is first described to Jake, by his own wife, as "up and coming, he's good-looking." This description is one that frightens Jake. During the entire film, the only fighter that ever seeps through the cracks of his rock-solid, immovable foundation is this young and attractive man he's never met.

 

There's a very short scene where Jake wakes up his wife in the middle of the night and asks her "You think of anybody else when I'm making love to you?...Why'd you say that thing about Tony Janiro?...That he's got a pretty face."
Half asleep and somewhat used to this line of questioning, she answers "I never noticed his face." Jake, in his usual disbelieving manner, replies "You're the one who said he was good looking. You think he's good looking 'cause I know you think he's good-looking. I'll smash his face inside out. I'll make him into dog meat. Nobody's gonna think he's good-looking when I get through with him. So you just go ahead and think about who you want."

 

This is my favorite character-building scene, the one that shows us how raw Jake LaMotta's vulnerability and jealousy is. In the end, making Tony unattractive was indeed something Jake could control and he does so in spades, though his rage is never sated.

 

When Jake first gets his chance at a title bout, it's entirely dependant on him taking a dive and lose to glass-jawed bum Billy Fox. As LaMotta's pride never allows him to fall down to anyone, this dive costs him a suspension as the fix was all too obvious to those in attendance. When the fight ends, Jake cries as he'd never done before, a sob so infectious even his trainer succumbs to it.
 
Ironically, the two weakest boxers LaMotta ever fought defeated him long before he ever faced them in the ring.

NO I SAIDS I LUVS YUH HAIR!
"NO I SAIDS I LUVS YUH HAIR!
"

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, The Aviator, Gangs of New York, The Last Temptation of Christ - this is one side of Martin Scorsese.

Casino, Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull - this is my favorite side of Martin Scorsese. This is the 'DeNiro as vicious animal' Scorsese. These are the works that have each earned Scorsese a spot in IMDb's Top 250, and Raging Bull sits confidently at #71. This story of rough and tumble boxer Jake LaMotta is less about boxing and more about the man who wears the gloves. It's more about Jake's relationship with his brother and wife than it is about career advancement or glory. It's about a guy living a hard life, and those he can't help but drag down with him a little.

Performance: 10 Cinematography: 9 Script: 10 Plot: 8 Mood: 9

Overall Rating: 92% (Rage On)
Aftertaste:

It's classic, you know it, I'm done wit choo guys.

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I am one of the very, very few people who hate this movie. I guess my problem with RB is that I hate LaMotta's character. It's not a bad thing in itself to have an unlikeable lead character, but in this movie I have no bearings, because EVERYONE is unlikeable. I need something to offest the hateful lead character, and in this film there's nobody. As a result, I just got apathetic towards LaMotta.  You've fucked up your life? Too bad.


And, you know, he's absolutely detestable, just like his brother is. When you open a film with a corpulent old wash-up spouting awkward line, proving that he's not anything great, you can either say "nowhere to go but up" or "why do I give a damn?"

Thanks Jeff!


Absolutely brilliant film! People that dislike this move clearly don't understand its purpose. It doesn't exist as escapism entertainment that ties up in a neat little likable package.  It's a slice of life--the often horrific side of life which is important.


Wellll I agree - up to a point. My quibble with RB is not that there's no nice resolution. I don't care if the main character isn't likeable - Hell, Travis Bickle isn't likeable either, and I LOVE Taxi Driver.

 

When I first saw RB (in the early 80's) , it left me cold. I assumed at the  time that it must be a failing on my part because everyone else loved it. I guess I can sum my feelings up this way. You have two choices when you watch this film - You can hope for redemption for LaMotta, or you can hope for his destruction. I can honestly say that I didn't really care about him either way (or about his wife or Joe Pesci's character). I just felt worn down by his relentless brutishness. I don't think indifference was they were shooting for.

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