Raging Bull (1980)

Raging Bull (1980)
  • Time: 129 min
  • Genre: Biography | Drama | Sport
  • Director: Martin Scorsese
  • Cast: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty


When Jake LaMotta 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, he winds up in the ring alone.


  • The best movie of the ’80’s, director Martin Scorsese pulled off what no one else would have attempted: the unsympathetic story of perhaps the most unsympathetic character in all of American cinema, Jake La Motta. Starring Robert De Niro, “Raging Bull” is not a boxing movie in the vein of “Rocky”. There is plenty of boxing in it, some of the best boxing scenes ever put onto celluloid, and the movie does follow his rise as a professional boxer. However, all of that is a backdrop for Jake’s real story, his fall as a human being. The closer Jake gets to his goal of winning the Middleweight Championship, the closer he is to destroying his own life. And once he achieves his goal, all of the energy and passion that went into fighting in the ring he turns to fighting out of the ring and he does just that, destroys his life. Shot in beautiful Black & White and co-staring Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty, “Raging Bull” is Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece.

  • Right from the start, he’s fighting. Fighting in the ring, fighting with the judges, and most of all, fighting with himself. After the first match that we see him in, we see that Jake La Motta is just as much of a fighter with his gloves off as he is with them on, possibly even more so. His home life is very troublesome; with a marriage where every interaction results in an argument, and a brother/manager who only patronizes him even more, being a great boxer is not what he thought.
    With every winning decision, his life out from under the stadium lights becomes worse. He meets an 18-year-old girl, and her personality is, shall we say, flirtatious in a bad way. It doesn’t take long for his jealousy and covetousness of his young wife soon becomes a major distraction, and as the middleweight title gets closer, so does his demise.

    Considered by most as one of the best sports movies of all time (alongside Field of Dreams, Rudy, Remember the Titans, and Hoosiers), Raging Bull is a great film not only about boxing, but also about a man who is a boxer. One major difference between this film and fellow boxing classic Rocky is that the movie shows more about life outside of the ropes than it does inside. With the total screen-time of actual bouts at roughly 15 minutes, the sport is simply the background to the story of La Motta. What this movie truly is about is a man who is unstable in his everyday life, and he struggles to keep himself from ruining his own career.
    In this film, Robert De Niro delivers one of the best performances not only of his career, but also possibly of all time. Famously gaining 60 lbs. to play the last part of this character’s story, De Niro’s performance as the real-life boxer La Motta brought the very intense story to the big-screen. As one of his two Oscar-winning performances, De Niro turned in everything he had, and came home with the deserved recognition.
    In addition to the Best Actor, Raging Bull also was nominated for Picture, Sound, Supporting Actor for Pesci, Supporting Actress for Moriarty, Director, Sound, Cinematography, and Film Editing, winning the last one. I personally thought that the sound, cinematography, and directing were definitely worthy of their Academy recognition.
    This film came 4 years after director Martin Scorsese’s successful film Taxi Driver, which also featured De Niro. Like Taxi Driver, this film also incorporates the social ineptness of a man, and how this difficulty has an effect on the people around him. At some point between after 1976, Martin Scorsese had become severely addicted to cocaine, and an excessive dosage one day left him in a hospital room. While visiting his great friend, Robert De Niro brought up the idea of making a film based on a book that he had recently read about an old boxer. Though at first hesitant, Scorsese delved into the story of La Motta, and he made this classic as a result.
    Now I must remind you, this is a rated R movie, and it is deservedly so. As one may expect, the boxing sequences are pretty brutal, with blood and pain visibly flowing throughout. Outside of the ring, both Jake and Joey La Motta engage in many heated arguments, and the language within these scenes is R-worthy in itself. Though nothing is shown, Jake’s wife Vicki is very “friendly” with people, and we hear about it in pretty specific detail.
    With these warnings listed, I still fully promote this film. This is truly a classic film, and if you are able to endure the violence and language, Raging Bull is a must-see for anyone interested in cinematic history.

    This is definitely a film that requires one’s attention. It is not a movie that necessarily keeps the viewer on the edge of his/her seat, and it is more about the story. The pacing is slow at times, and it can lull for a small amount of time. I definitely loved this film, and I wholly recommend this film.

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