Thursday, September 12, 2013

668. Raging Bull (1980)

Running Time: 129 minutes
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: Paul Schrader, Mardik Martin, from book by Jake La Motta, Joseph Carter, Peter Savage
Main Cast: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty, Nicholas Colasanto, Theresa Saldana
Click here to view the trailer


A few things to talk about before I get into the movie:

1) As I said in the "Taxi Driver" review, this Friday night I'll be joining the boys on The Big Kahuna Burger Podcast to talk film, specifically Martin Scorsese. I really hope you will all go and give them a little support, not just for my episode, but for all the great episodes they've done. Any and all information on The Big Kahuna Burger Podcast can be found by clicking here.

2) The newest edition of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book has arrived at my house, in review copy form and I must say I was SHOCKED at some of the inclusions and exclusions. I'll be on the blog hopefully someday this weekend to talk, in depth, about the ins and outs and what I think of the newest, TOTALLY REVISED edition.

3) Yesterday the blog celebrated it's fourth birthday and again, hopefully someday this weekend I'll be on the blog for a special four year anniversary post, where I'll do a whole lot of thanking and general reflections and probably also use the time to hype the podcast appearance and talk about how it all went.

So there's lots going on this week. Add to that the FINAL director tribute week, as we pay homage to the great Martin Scorsese, by watching some of the biggest titles from THE BOOK. "Raging Bull" may be the biggest of the Scorsese lot.

Martin Scorsese's seventh picture, "Raging Bull" tells the story of Jake La Motta (De Niro), top middleweight boxing contender and Italian-American living in The Bronx, under the management of his brother Joey (Pesci). That's really the meat & potatoes of what the film is ABOUT, however, the film delves into La Motta's personal setbacks, including his uncontrollable jealousy toward his trophy wife Vickie (Moriarty) and his ongoing battle with keeping in physical shape for the ring. The film details all of his biggest fights, some in montage form, including classic fights with Sugar Ray Robinson and Middleweight Champion Marcel Cerdan. As his career winds down, La Motta finds his anger issues spiraling out of control, with no self acknowledgement of a problem. In the end of his career, La Motta buys a night club (called "Jake La Motta's") where he TRIES to be as entertaining with a microphone as he was with a pair of gloves. Key scenes include La Motta urging his brother Joey to hit him repeatedly in the face, La Motta sobbing into the shoulder of his brother's suit jacket after being forced to throw a fight and the night Sugar Ray Robinson left La Motta's blood dripping from the ring ropes.

While it isn't quite as thought provoking or even as good as "Taxi Driver", I really think that this is the movie that put Scorsese on the map, thanks to the cinematography, the score and the subject matter. When you put "Raging Bull" side by side with "Taxi Driver", this is the one that looks a lot more professional and when watched, shows off memorable scene after memorable scene and just feels like something that should be lauded & praised. Whereas "Taxi Driver" looks a little more gritty and a little more underground; something that was made on a more personal level, "Raging Bull" looks like something that was made for the intention of turning heads and winning awards. Whether or not that was the intention or not, I do not know, but that's how it looks.

I really don't have a lot of in-depth insight to add to this one. Like I said, it just isn't as thought provoking as "Taxi Driver" and while I LOVE me some "Raging Bull", the characters here just aren't AS interesting as the Bickle character. In fact, the characters here are kind of shallow and really show no depth at all. There's no great awakening in the La Motta character; he's just a homophobic, jealous thug who only knows how to do one thing: fight.

However a question came to mind while watching this: Would De Niro have been as successful without Scorsese and vice versa? Look guys, there's a reason some people call De Niro the greatest actor to ever grace the big screen and it's performances like this and "Taxi Driver" that prove those people right. With these two films, you get a chance to see two, completely different De Niro's and see what a versatile actor the man is. In "Taxi Driver" he creates a developed character, with inner torment and in "Raging Bull" he pours his heart out, no to mention the physical changes that must've been rough on him. Now then, take "Raging Bull", "Taxi Driver" and the rest of the Scorsese pictures out of De Niro's filmography and do we still have an actor that people worship? Maybe, but there's also a big "maybe not" on it too. Does Scorsese get the director acclaim that he's gotten without De Niro bringing the acting chops to the table for him? I think this one is a much easier to fathom "what if", because Scorsese IS talented, but I think he makes his name with other pictures and not TD and RB.

RATING: 9/10  Like I said, just not AS good as "Taxi Driver", but still a damn fine movie and one that really looks, sounds and feels like something special. If you've never seen it, then congratulations, your life still has see this picture! Not that it didn't have meaning anyway....


September 12, 2013  11:35pm


  1. Oh gosh,, such a lot of content in this one to respond to...
    But first the film.
    Another great film, well deserving of its praise.. but another one that i personally didn't enjoy watching.
    I dislike boxing.. (but I have enjoyed several boxing films.. 'The harder they fall'), so off to a poor start there. People often defend boxers / boxing by saying it's just their job.. well, fair enough, but here we have someone who seems to like being a brute in his own time as well as 'at work'. His treatment of his wife I found off putting.
    I fully accept and understand that a lot of the other bits in the film explain his behavior by showing his personal demons, and how his anger issues take over his life.. but I'm afraid I still just saw another brutal misogynist monster.
    Oh well, my loss if I 'don't get' this one guess.

    Congratulations on your 4th birthday!

    Details of the new, fully revise edition waited with interest.. and some trepidation.
    Now being just the two away from completion (and i have the films.. i'm just waiting for a special occasion to do them), I dread having the goal posts moved.
    You have always stated that victory is completing your own (Indiana Jones cover) edition.. so by extension, any one edition is valid.. I seem to gather that my 'Psycho cover' is one a lot of people are using.. so I too will claim gold for finishing that. I may just ask for another cup for doing ('Life of pi' didn't you say?)cover. It depends what crap they put in this one and expect me to watch... Hot tub time machine?.. Twilight? That Justin Beaver movie? There are limits...

    1. Lets just say that the changes aren't specific to recent years (ie. they removed a Buster Keaton movie) and there are over fifty of them.


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