Raging Bull Reviews
Saw this on 2/4/15
Much like Taxi Driver and the other films of the actor-director combo of De Niro and Scorsese, Raging bull is also extremely overrated, but it benefits from a truly dedicated performance from Robert De Niro. Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty are also good. The film tells a powerful story of an unsympathetic boxing champ, but lacks a punch in it's ending. For me the best work of the pair thus far is Cape Fear.
Grade = 8.5/10
Although many people consider Raging Bull to be the greatest sports movie of all time, the difference between a film like this and Rocky is the fact that Rocky was more about the sport while Raging Bull was more about Jake LaMotta himself as a person while his role in the boxing community is also put into clear focus. Either way, I consider it to be a different kind of sports movie as it is a sports biopic, but there is no denying the brilliance of it.
Martin Scorsese's detailed analysis of the self-destructive lifestyle of Jake LaMotta is incredibly well executed. Through the simplest of scenes, Martin Scorsese slowly develops his tale as it progresses through the story of a man and a boxer. As Jake LaMotta becomes a greater warrior in the ring and a more powerful man, it is at the expense of his sanity because he loses control of his rage more and more. The relationships he shares with his wife and brother are greatly affected by this, and without having to dramatise anything, Martin Scorsese builds up the intensity of it all very naturally before unleashing it in several climactic moments over the course of the film, whether they be emotionally powerful in sentimentality of striking in intensity. Either way, Martin Scorsese captures the gritty nature of Jake LaMotta's story excellently. The message of the film seems to be that Jake LaMotta was nothing but an empty shell of a man, and as his shell grew thicker, he just had more space inside him to be empty. The depiction of his loneliness and empty life is sad, but the way that it shows him confronting his demons is brutal thanks to Martin Scorsese's ability to handle the subject matter without any mercy. Upon my second viewing of Raging Bull, I realize that it is truly one of his finest works because of how he takes a simple story and puts so much style and life into it. Raging Bull saved director Martin Scorsese from killing himself with a problematic cocaine addiction, and his treatment of the screenplay crafted by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin is brilliant.
Visually, Raging Bull has a lot of artistic merits to it. In establishing the time of the film, the production design and scenery of Raging Bull do an excellent job depicting its setting of The Bronx. Everything looks beautiful from the production design to the costumes, and it is all captured by the look of beautiful cinematography which establishes a sense of nostalgia by following a classical style yet combining it with some innovative new techniques. Raging Bull is shot and edited beautifully, and the fact that the film is black and white makes it all the more timely and beautiful. In a symbolic sense, it reflects the simplicity of Jake LaMotta as a man and the aggression of him as a boxer through its black and white, so it really has a lot of meaning all while feeling classical. It is a visual masterpiece as much as it is an insightful one, and one of the most visually stellar films on behalf of Martin Scorsese.
And without the slightest falter, the cast members in Raging Bull make a brutal impact headlined by Robert De Niro in a career best performance.
The first thing that viewers get to witness in Raging Bull is the sight of Robert De Niro playing an older version of Jake LaMotta. With his incredible dedication to the role, Robert De Niro is incredibly obese. He actually gained a lot of weight to portray the much older Jake LaMotta, and it pays off because it increases his credibility and gives him the right appearance. He easily captures the aged nature of the man, and it takes a while to realise that it is actually Robert De Niro because he looks like somebody that has never been seen before on screen. Robert De Niro's physical achievement as Jake LaMotta comes into play based on both how he looks and how he fights. When viewers see him go at it in the ring, Robert De Niro floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. His technique is amazing and the work of a truly brilliant actor. So Robert De Niro is amazing physically in Raging Bull, but I haven't even gotten to explaining the more deep aspects of his performance yet. In the role of Jake LaMotta, Robert De Niro is incredibly on key. He captures the emptiness and sadness of the man beneath his tough exterior and conveys it through his consistent aggression and blank facial expressions while he gradually breaks it down over the course of the film's progression. Robert De Niro was born to play Jake LaMotta and captures him in detail within every inch of the character, inside and out, and so it is definitely the greatest performance of his career.
Joe Pesci is stunning as well. In his breakthrough role, Joe Pesci manages to take on the role of Joey LaMotta and use it to empower Robert De Niro all while maintaining a strong character for himself. In some scenes which are just basic moments of dialogue and others which are complex scenes depicting brotherhood between the LaMottas, Joe Pesci is on par every single moment with a deep association with the character, plenty of physical energy and a flawless line delivery. He engages with the character on a perfect level to capture his Bronx nature and shares an incredibly powerful chemistry with Robert De Niro. For a film where Robert De Niro is in top form, Joe Pesci manages to stand out himself with a performance which is the second greatest of his career following his Academy Award winning role in Martin Scorsese's 1990 film Goodfellas.
Cathy Moriarty does a nice job as Vicky LaMotta as well. In her debut performance, she maintains a classical sense of beauty right for the character and maintains the stoicism of a wife dragged through a rocky relationship. As the film goes on she develops more intense in her approach to the material and so she ends up with some really strong scenes. Her screen time is small and she is overshadowed by Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, but she shows a lot of promise as an actress and works hard to establish her relevance in the film.
So thanks to a brilliant and nostalgic visual style combined with intense direction from Martin Scorsese, a screenplay that hits all the right notes and an amazing performance rom Robert De Niro as well as a powerful effort on behalf of Joe Pesci, Raging Bull truly is a great sport biopic masterpiece.