Raging Bull - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Raging Bull Reviews

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Super Reviewer
December 28, 2010
Superbly directed, edited and acted, this top-notch boxing drama is a fascinating character study centered on an aggressive, insecure man overcome by intense jealousy and paranoia. A haunting film crafted with a lot of honesty and unpretentious realism.
Super Reviewer
August 16, 2013
While shooting "The Godfather Part II", Robert DeNiro found himself reading the book "Raging Bull: My Story", based on the life of 1950's middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta. It was a story he felt very passionate about bringing to the screen and took it to his good friend, Martin Scorsese. Scorsese was, at first, reluctant to do a boxing movie as "Rocky" had recently been released to massive success and he, himself, was going through a personal crisis at the time due to the failure of their previous collaboration "New York, New York" and his spiralling addiction to cocaine and lithium - leaving him hospitalised with internal bleeding. They brought in screenwriter's Mardik Martin ("Mean Streets") and Paul Schrader ("Taxi Driver") and the film eventually went ahead. It became a form of therapy for Scorsese and has since been lauded as a cinematic tour-de-force and voted - in numerous polls - as the best film from the 1980's.
Italian-American, middleweight boxer, Jake LaMotta (Robert DeNiro) has inner demons and is prone to obsessive rage and sexual jealousy which threatens to destroy his relationship with his wife Vickie (Cathy Moriarty) and brother/trainer Joey (Joe Pesci). In the ring, he a prizewinner but it's outside it, that he seems to lose everything.
On the surface, Raging Bull could be seen as just another boxing biopic, much like Denzel Washington's portrayal of Ruben "Hurricane" Carter, Russell Crowe's Jim "The Cinderella Man" Braddock or Will Smith's Muhammad "Ali". Scorsese and DeNiro's vision is an altogether different one, though. It's not their intention to glamourise LaMotta or deliver a conventional film about pugilism. Their intentions lie in exposing the man beyond the ring - where his real fights took place. The biggest opponent for "The Bronx Bull" was actually himself and his struggle with a raging, psychosexual insecurity and his propensity for self-destruction. It's here that DeNiro fully takes centre stage in what is, unequivocally, his finest moment (and that's saying something) throughout an illustrious career of exceptionally strong performances. His transformation is near miraculous; while researching and preparing for the role, De Niro actually spent the entire shoot with LaMotta so he could portray him accurately and went through extensive physical training, entering into three genuine Brooklyn boxing matches and winning two of them. According to La Motta, De Niro had the ability to be a professional fighter and that he would have been happy to have been his manager and trainer. Following this, production was stopped for two months so DeNiro could pile on 60 pounds to portray LaMotta in his older years. His commitment to the role (and project) has now become legendary and highly respected amongst his peers. Quite simply, DeNiro's smouldering (and deservedly Oscar winning) display is an absolute masterclass in the profession.
Scorsese's skills manifest in his operatic approach; he's less interested in cranking up the tension or theatrics of the bouts and more focused on the punishing brutality of the sport. He employs the use of flashbulbs, and several different sound effects - like smashing glass and squelching watermelons - to achieve an overall crunching effectiveness. He's aided immeasurably by Thelma Schoonmaker's sharp editing technique and Michael Chapman's sublime, monochrome, cinematography which serves the film as a whole in it's mood and noir-ish atmosphere. If the bouts in the ring are claustrophobic then the same could be said for the 'quieter' moments outside it; LaMotta's personal life is uncomfortably scrutinised in his abuse towards his wife Vickie and brother Joey. There are very personal scenes of fraught and jealous conversations that are unbearably tense, and fully depict how much of a brute this man really was. It's testament to the commitment of the entire cast and crew that this highly unappealing individual can make such compelling viewing.
A truly searing, cinematic classic, that addresses the unflinching, animalistic, behaviour of a man in need of absolution and redemption. It also happens to possess one of cinema's most breathtaking and riveting performances. On this evidence, there's no question that Robert DeNiro is a master of his craft and it's arguably Martin Scorsese's finest work as well.

Mark Walker
Super Reviewer
½ January 26, 2013
Last year I set out to watch the AFI top 100 greatest movies of all time. I've made it through quite a bit of it, but I had skipped this one over for some reason. It's just one of those movies, that I'd always wanted to watch, just never made the effort to watch it. Finally sat down and watched, and as number 4 on the list, I expected an amazing movie. But I gotta be honest, I was very underwhelmed. I generally love De Niro movies, and Martin Scorsese movies, but this just didn't work for me as much as I thought it would. The performances are all great, and De Niro absolutely deserved the Oscar. But the movie is slow, and watching it seems more like an "important" movie than an "entertaining" one. Like, the type of movie you see once and that's all you need. Made more for the "art" of the movie, than the "popcorn" value, I guess. It's the story of Jack La Motta a famous middleweight boxer in the 40's and 50's and chronicles his career from the ring to hosting a night club in retirement, and all the ups and downs of his personal life in between. The boxing scenes are great, and I really loved the Sugar Ray Robinson scenes, but when the movie veered away from the ring, it just stalled for me. I may try to watch this again sometime, and hopefully my opinion changes.
Super Reviewer
August 31, 2012
'Raging Bull'. An absolute masterclass in self-destruction by De Niro and Scorcese. I felt sick and sad for Jake LaMotta.

The camerawork by Scorcese during the boxing scenes is poetic and brutal all at once. Loved the quick cuts to the cameras and their sounds, the use of slow motion, the extreme close ups and tenderness when Cathy is kissing his eyes, the weird, cute "date" at minigolf when the courting first begins and the use of colour for their love story montage.

Then there's De Niro's Jake LaMotta. Anger constantly bubbling beneath the surface. Absolute disregard for rules or society. Paranoia, obsession, extreme jealousy, control freak. Did I mention the oh-so-violent outbursts?

I have no idea how De Niro prepared for this role, or how long it stuck with him afterwards. He is scarily good!
Super Reviewer
½ February 1, 2012
Violent poem of the anti hero Jake LaMotta. Beautiful masterpiece of Scorsese, that bring De Niro's unforgettable acting. A painful nightmare redemption in it's powerful and spectaclue drama.
Super Reviewer
½ July 10, 2012
Raging Bull boasts great direction and a vivid performance by Robert De Niro. It is a great character study like Taxi Driver, and is just as good as that film in terms of character development and its soundtrack.
Super Reviewer
½ April 26, 2012
I tend not to be a fan of biopics and their often unfocused story arcs, and in keeping with that disposition, the first half of "Raging Bull" failed to fully engage me, despite the amazing performances of De Niro and Pesci. However, later on the film ends up a harrowing tale of self-destruction, where the boxing (which is perhaps the greatest spectacle in the film, with visceral cinematography and the captivating direction expected of Scorsese) is only an externalization for the fierce anger much deeper within De Niro's take on former boxer Jake La Motta. It's weird that I found myself enjoying such a prestigious classic less than much less meticulous "The Fighter" from 2010 as a whole, but trust me - the individual pieces of "Raging Bull" are explanation enough for it's legacy.
Super Reviewer
½ April 5, 2011
An incredible movie. Martin Scorsese creates a character that seems cold and heartless, but relatable at the same time. A great movie with flawless acting from Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci.
Super Reviewer
January 4, 2011
I finally got to see this classic film and sadly, I was disappointed; I didn't like it. There were elements that I thought were excellent like the acting, direction, and cinematography (the black and white is perfect for this film), but I just never got into it. I didn't really care for any of the characters and the story wasn't that interesting. I plan to see this again...it may just be one of those films that takes multiple viewings.
Super Reviewer
October 28, 2011
What can I say, an unforgettable film experience.
Super Reviewer
August 15, 2011
Raging Bull is one of the most intense and incredible sports films of all time, but its not really all about sports, its mostly about a man, and that man is named Jake Lomatta. The plot is based on a true story, but I was just watching his story and I realized there are few sports films that are as intense with the personal lives of the protagonists but this movie doesn't stray from showing us characters that are colorful and real, and I think thatsthe best kind of story, when the audience is watching a story and people who are real and we see them much differently then how we saw them before. The cast surely did their homework about their characters because they all got an A+ in my book. Robert DeNiro deserved his Oscar, he plays possibly his greatest role he has ever done and I truly loved him and he may have been the best part of the film, and Joe Pesci is always great and fun to watch. The boxing scenes are not your usual boxing scenes, they are very fast paced and quick and there even some moments that were just pure strokes of genius. My favorite sports film is Rudy, but I don't consider this much of a sports film, I consider it a dramatic work of art about a man who tried everything to be great and all he wanted was to be the best, but all he did was lose as much as he gained, and Raging Bull should be considered in the leagues as the greatest film ever, because it is just so amazing I cannot consider it anything else from perfect, this is one of Martin Scorseses masterpieces.
Super Reviewer
August 23, 2011
Robert De Niro gives one of the greatest screen performances I've seen in Martin Scorsese's riveting drama. It is one of the best character studies I've seen and the cinematography and direction are top-notch.
Super Reviewer
½ June 12, 2011
Whenever Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro get together they always make a phenomenal film. Raging Bull is one of Scorsese's best films and is also one of the best boxing films ever made. Forget about Rocky, Ali and more recently The Fighter, this is the boxing film to watch. Raging Bull is the true story of boxer Jake LaMotta who seeks to get a title shot against Sugar Ray Robinson. Like every Scorsese film, Scorsese is able to tell a terrific story on screen and make it interesting. For Raging Bull, he has assembled a phenomenal cast of talented actors who light up the screen in this powerful drama. Raging Bull is the best film dealing with boxing. Martin Scorsese really delivers a strong film and its one of his best. Raging Bull is an astounding character study of a conflicted individual as he seeks redemption. Scorsese tells a powerful story and De Niro delivers a stunning performance. Sure there are a lot of great boxing films out there, but for me, none has the power that Raging Bull has. This is a well crafted film with a well executed story and delivers believable drama on screen. Martin Scorsese has always made great films, but Raging Bull is one of his finest works. If you want to see one of the finest boxing films, then let it be this one. Raging Bull is a superbly well acted drama that is one unforgettable masterpiece.
Super Reviewer
June 1, 2011
If one was to seriously think about it, there are really only two main types of films: Stories and character studies. The idea of a film being good or bad is nothing short of a state of mind. Here, this is a film that is a character study that, in all my years of viewing films, is unlike any other I have ever seen. And it would take Martin Scorsese to create such a film. 'Raging Bull', based on the novel Raging Bull: My Story (written by Jake La Motta), is a film that is a character study and damn good one that is hard to watch. It is not because of the violence or gore (there is plenty of that), but because we are taken into a world of a man that is beyond confused to such a point that he is self destructing himself and we end up seeing the effect on the people around him. In terms of direction, Scorsese is always a magnificent pro at what he does. It was once said by a fellow film critic that "Black and white has a special quality. It's more stylized than color, more dreamy, less realistic.". Here with this film, that quote fits this so perfectly. This film, watching it, seems like a dream that you want to escape from (or brutally beat up the main character) but you do not want to because you have to see how much more farther down he will spiral. So, the black and white film used here works beyond well. His (being Scorsese's) cinematography is beyond gorgeous. The best moments are during the many bowing scenes that are littered in this film. Watching this, you would think that he would specialize in those types of camera techniques. The only problem would have to be the pasing. This is a slow film that does not pick up until the last hour or so. Now the script. I will have to say that Mardik Martin and Paul Schrader done a good job writing the script for this film to make it the film it is. Out of the film done by Scorsese, this one has one of the best scripts so, I am impressed by those two who adapted part of the novel into this film. Then we have the acting. The only two actors that I even need to mention are Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. I mean, these guys are pro at acting, guys who give it their all. And seeing them acting as brothers in this pic, I have to admit they done a wonderful and heart-aching job and portraying the struggles the real people that they are portraying as were. Finally we have the score. To be honest, there really is not that much of a score to speak of. But, I am guessing that due to this film and how it was made, this is needed. So, overall, I say that this is a great film to watch if you are interested in seeing a great character study film and are willing to dive down into the complex hell of one man.
Super Reviewer
May 25, 2011
I just rewatched this after almost five years, and I was still stunned by its psychotic violence, impressed by De Niro's unbelievable performance, and absorbed by Scorsese's minimal yet pointed direction. I don't agree that this film has a redemptive quality to it. It's about a terrible man who is first unable, and then refuses, to recognize that he is the cause of his problems. Driven entirely by impulse, La Motta has nothing - not love, not trust, absolutely nothing - beyond his concern for satiating his immediate impulses. A powerful statement on evil, Scorsese's complete lack of judgment on his title character can make the film difficult to watch and understand. Still, after all these years, it's still an effective, emotionally wrenching movie.
Super Reviewer
May 12, 2011
Brilliantly shot and framed and I loved the ultra-stylized boxing ring fights. Fantastic and emotional performances from the cast. Boxing/fighting films aren't normally my thing but this is the best of its type. I'm not saying I'd jump at the chance to see this again, but the way Scorsese portrays these people really is beautiful.
Super Reviewer
March 17, 2011
An uncompromising and gripping film expertly delivered by director Martin Scorsese. Robert De Niro's performance is absolutely terrifying to watch.
Super Reviewer
½ January 21, 2011
Beautifully filmed and exquisitely delivererd, Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull follows the rise and fall of Jake LaMotta. Unstoppable and somewhat poetic within the ring, dogged by jealousy and paranoia outside of it.

LaMotta, played by the brilliant Robert De Niro is someone that you really want to root for but we are constantly prevented from fully committing as LaMotta hits self destruct on his personal life and ultimtely his boxing career.


"Who's an animal? Your mother's an animal, ya son of a bitch. "
Super Reviewer
½ November 10, 2010
As a character I could not stand Jake LaMotta. Just throwing that out there. I wanted to ram him with a car. And the story was meh. To me. I don't like boxing stories. Or sports in general.
However, De Niro and Pesci were brilliant. And it was shot gorgeously. And the Psycho-ish fight scene was awwwwesome even if it was cringe-worthy.
Super Reviewer
½ October 4, 2006
Astonishing and uncomprosiming, expect not to take to this first time round, but persevere (as I did), and you'll find an incredible central performance and remarkable direction. NOT a sports movie, and thank god for that. No easy answers this time, such as it was with De Niro back in the day... a masterpiece by all accounts, the like of which we probably won't see again. Marvel at the power of the 'La Motta takes a fall' bout; impossible to convey in any other medium, perfect cinema.
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