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Essential masterpiece; powerful De Niro; simply one of the best films of all time.
MovieAddict20165 April 2004
"Raging Bull" isn't the average, stereotypical underdog boxing movie, because it isn't really about boxing at all. Like most great movies, its focus is much deeper. It came out in 1980, earned Robert De Niro a Best Actor Academy Award, and was marked down as another solid triumph by director Martin Scorsese, whose previous 1976 outing with De Niro earned them both critical acclaim (and for De Niro, an Oscar nomination, although he would actually earn an Oscar for "Raging Bull" four years later).

It dwindled in production hell for quite some time, with Scorsese's drug use halting production and only the duo's strong willpower that kept the project moving ahead. It was after De Niro read boxer Jake LaMotta's memoirs that he knew he wanted to make the film, so Scorsese and De Niro turned to Paul Schrader for a script. Schrader, who had previously written "Taxi Driver" (1976), agreed, and wrote the screenplay for them. The rest is history.

"Raging Bull" has often been regarded as the greatest film of the 80s. To be honest, I'm not so sure about that, since various genres offer different feelings and emotions (comparing this to a comedy might seem rather silly). But to say it is one of the most powerful films of all time would be no gross overstatement -- it is superb film-making at its finest.

De Niro gained 60 pounds to play LaMotta, which was an all-time record at the time (later beaten by Vincent D'Onofrio, who gained 70 pounds for Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket"). His physical transformation is on-par with any great screen makeover, especially the most recent, ranging from Willem Dafoe in "Shadow of the Vampire" to Charlize Theron in "Monster." In addition, co-star Joe Pesci also lost weight for his role of Joey, LaMotta's short, eccentric brother. The greatest scene in the film is when LaMotta accuses his brother of having an affair with his wife. The tension is raw, the dialogue amazing, and the overall intensity electrifying.

The film is most often compared to "Rocky," more than any other, apparently because they both concern a certain level of boxing. As much as I absolutely adore "Rocky," "Raging Bull" is a deeper, more realistic film. But whereas "Raging Bull" is raw, "Rocky" is inspiring, and that is one of the reasons I do not think these two very different motion pictures deserve comparison, for the simple fact that they are entirely separate from one another. The only connecting thread is the apparently central theme of boxing, which is used as a theme in "Rocky," and a backdrop in "Raging Bull." They're entirely different motion pictures -- one uplifting, the other somewhat depressing -- and the people who try to decide which is better need to seriously re-evaluate their reasons for doing so. They both succeed splendidly well at what they are trying to do, and that's all I have to say about their so-called connection.

De Niro, who could justifiably be called the greatest actor of all time, is at the top of his game here. In "Taxi Driver" he displayed a top-notch performance. He wasn't just playing Travis Bickle -- he was Travis Bickle. And here he is Jake LaMotta, the infamous boxer known for his abusive life style and somewhat paranoid delusions during his reign as world middleweight boxing champion, 1949 - 1951. Throughout the film, he beats his wife (played expertly and convincingly by the 19-year-old Cathy Moriarty), convinced that she is cheating on him, and that is more or less what the film is truly about. The boxing is just what he does for a living, and could be considered as a way to release some of his deeper, harbored anger.

LaMotta has a close relationship with Joey, his brother, and their interaction is often what elevates the film above others of its genre. The dialogue is great, close to the perfection of Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction," rich in that rapid-fire filthy language and brutal insults. Pesci, who was on the verge of quitting showbiz at the time of pre-production, was spotted by De Niro in a cheap B-movie named "The Death Collector" (1975), a.k.a. "Family Business," a truly horrid film that nevertheless showcased an early sign of things to come for Pesci. De Niro wanted him for the movie and his premonition was either very lucky or very wise -- this is one of the best performances of Pesci's entire career.

Scorsese shot the film in muted black and white, portraying a certain era of depression and misery. To make the blood show up on screen during the occasional fight scenes, Scorsese used Hershey's Syrup -- which is an interesting tidbit of trivia for any aspiring film-making planning on filming a violent movie in black and white. But how often does that happen?

This is certainly one of the most intense films Scorsese has directed, and one of the most important of his career. Along with "Taxi Driver," it is an iconic motion picture that will stand the test of time for years and years to come.

Scorsese and De Niro's partnership over the years has resulted in some of the most influential and utterly amazing motion pictures of all time: "Mean Streets," "Taxi Driver," "The King of Comedy," "Goodfellas" and "Casino" come to mind almost instantly. But perhaps the one single title that will be remembered as their most daring effort is "Raging Bull," a motion picture so utterly exhilarating that it defies description. It is simply a masterpiece for the mind and senses, leaving you knocked out cold after its brutal one-two punch. If I had to assemble a list of required viewing, this would be up there towards the top.
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Some technical aspects of this cinematic masterpiece
head_radio28 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
The first surprising thing about Raging Bull as a film is its black and white photography, with the only colour footage being the short home video sequence of La Motta's wedding. Originally, the decision to shoot the film in black and white was based specifically on cinematographer Michael Chapman and Martin Scorsese's memories of 1940's boxing bouts, which they remembered as black and white flash photos in magazines. People's memories of Jake La Motta's fights would have been black and white ones and therefore it seemed right to shoot in black and white, even though at first they had fears this would be seen as too pretentious. The particular visual intensity of the fight scenes, however, was partly due to financial difficulties rather than directorial choices. In an attempt to keep the picture on schedule, two separate lighting styles had to be adopted. Jake's life outside the ring would be kept as simple as possible, and this meant that the scenes in the ring could be concentrated on more. They would be shot entirely in the Los Angeles studio and would be highly stylised. This is how the dazzling visual nature of the fight scenes was allowed to come about. Scorsese, suffering from a low point in his career, was convinced this film would be his last and wanted to go out with a bang. Hence he decided to give the fighting scenes all he could, since he had nothing to lose anymore.

What Scorsese disliked about the previous boxing films he had seen was the way the fights were shown from ringside, adopting a spectator's view, which protected the audience from the brutality inside the ring. For Raging Bull, Scorsese was determined to get as close as possible to the raw violence of the fights. He would film inside the ring and make the audience feel every punch. His plan was to shoot the fight scenes as if the viewers were the fighter, and their impressions were the fighter's, and never to insulate the audience from the violence in the ring. The viewers would think, feel, see and hear everything the boxers would. Aside from the opening fight, La Motta's first professional defeat against Jimmy Reeves, there would be no cuts to the baying of the crowd. For the Reeves fight Scorsese chose to include some chaotic backlash from the crowd showing their disapproval of the judge's decision, but apart from this scene, Scorsese's mantra throughout the film was 'Stay in the ring'. Each intricately choreographed fight would have a different style in order to reflect La Motta's different states of mind at the time of the fights.

Jake La Motta was consultant for the film, and the fights were depicted as he remembered them. For example, in his second fight against Sugar Ray Robinson, the ring is wide and brightened by the radiant white of the canvas making the scene feel free and open, and a relatively comfortable atmosphere. This is because La Motta won this fight, a great victory against his great rival. In contrast to this, the ring in his next fight against Robinson, which he lost on a controversial decision, was designed by Scorsese as a 'pit of hell'. In the opening shot of this fight, Scorsese has made everything look unclear and indistinguishable. This time, the ring is very dark and smoky which increases the blurred, unfocused feel of the fight. Often during this fight, faces are out of frame. For example when the two men are boxing La Motta's face is often blurred out by smoke or hidden by his opponent's body. This is seen once again when he is in his corner for the break in between the rounds; the shot has his face completely covered by one of the ropes of the ring. This was how La Motta himself remembered it; these events will remain unclear in his mind since he could not work out why he had lost. This sequence depicts a particularly upsetting part of La Motta's memories, and perfectly illustrates how he was feeling at the moment of the fight.

Just as important as the look of the film was the sound. As with the cinematography, two different styles were adopted to differentiate between La Motta's life in and out of the ring. The fight scenes were recorded in Dolby Stereo with heightened, often animalistic sound effects and a striking use of silence. This contrast with the dialogue in the film, which was recorded normally, was used to emphasise La Motta's heightened sense of awareness in the ring. The most memorable use of sound in the film, in particular the use of silence, is in La Motta's fourth fight against his great rival Sugar Ray Robinson. The rounds are punctuated by eery silence, giving an impression of slow motion and evoking the idea of what would be running through the boxers' heads. Just as memorable was the decision to use an animal's breathing for Robinson's final attack on La Motta. Everything is standing still, there is a striking silence throughout and all that can be heard is the bestial breathing building the suspense, as if Robinson was a lion about to strike on its prey. The next sequence is an extremely fast montage of cuts showing La Motta being badly beaten by Robinson. This scene moves between Robinson and La Motta at a rapid pace to suit the lightning fast boxing of which La Motta is on the receiving hand. This was carefully planned out and storyboarded beforehand by Scorsese and then skilfully brought to life by editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who won an Oscar for her work.
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It doesn't get much better than this
waltergl25 November 2002
Easily one of the most powerful films I have ever seen. I have watched it at least ten times, and it only gets better and better with each viewing. Martin Scorsese is absolutely the greatest filmmaker of the last quarter century, and this film is his best. The story of how boxer Jake LaMotta watched his career and marriage crumble under the weight of his violent temper and deep-rooted misogyny is told with no punches pulled (excuse the bad pun), as Deniro (in what may be his best performance) and Scorsese unflinchingly explore what drove this man over the edge, and what ultimately may have pulled him back. The boxing scenes easily rank with the most brutal and violent moments ever put on film, shot in stark, unadorned black and white and utilizing unlikely sounds including shattering windows and animal cries to great effect. Thelma Schoonmaker's jarring, discordant editing in these scenes also deserves special mention. The scenes of domestic violence are not for the faint of heart, but there is really no other way to tell this story. If there is a more perfect exploration of why as men we act the way we do, then I'd love to see it, because this movie made me re-evaluate my life. 10/10
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Scorsese's Best? De Niro's Best? The 1980s' Best? Probably on All Three
tfrizzell28 September 2000
Warning: Spoilers
"Raging Bull" is a cinematic masterpiece which pulls no punches. Based on a true story, Robert De Niro (in his second Oscar-winning role) stars as Jake La Motta, a middle-weight prize-fighter from the late-1940s and early-1950s, who basically destroys himself and those around him because of an uncontrollable temper and poor decision-making. Instead of going down as one of the greatest boxers of all time, La Motta ruined his career because he was unable to see the "big picture". He threw bouts, he got involved with low-life underworld crime figures, he beat his wife (Cathy Moriarty, in her Oscar-nominated role), he abused all those closest to him, and he had relationships with young girls who were still considered minors. Even his strongest tie, his younger brother (Joe Pesci, in an Oscar-nominated, star-making part), gets cut during the course of his untimely self-destruction. La Motta goes from middle-weight champ to a washed-out stand-up comic at a local club. He gains weight uncontrollably and ultimately just becomes another face in the crowd by the end of the film. By the end, La Motta proclaims that he: "Could have been a contender....", quoting Marlon Brando's famous line from "On the Waterfront". "Raging Bull" is one of those films that is masterfully crafted in all possible departments. The screenplay is one of the best in the history of film. Martin Scorsese's direction is superb and so is the cinematography (shot almost entirely in black-and-white). The film delivered De Niro an Oscar and also won for its editing. "Raging Bull" is one of those films that is very close to "Citizen Kane". They both deal with men who desperately want to be great, but ultimately destroy themselves and those around them. This film is often rated the best film of the 1980s. I cannot argue with that opinion. I also think that this is the best work that Scorsese and De Niro have ever done. The fact that this film lost the Best Picture Oscar to "Ordinary People" in 1980 is probably the biggest disappointment since "Citizen Kane" lost to "How Green Was My Valley" in 1941. Excellent. 5 stars out of 5.
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Classic examination of masculinity
bob the moo16 March 2002
The story of boxer Jake La Motta from his rising star in the 1940's through to his own downfall and his eventual living on the cabaret circuit in the present day.

Scorsese and De Niro – nobody needs say any more. Whether it be media satire (King of Comedy), small time thugs (Mean Streets) or real gangsta s**t (Goodfellas), the two rarely miss. This was one of their best to date (and probably for ever). The story is fascinating in itself but as an examination of masculinity it excels. The film allows us to watch a man who goes along with all the things he thinks make him a man – even when those characteristics and habits begin to destroy everything he has – his marriage, his realtionships and his career. Combine this with the gripping boxing tale of ups and downs and you have a film that never outstays it's welcome.

Scorsese is on top form – the use of black and white any have been a quality issue, but he uses it well. The fight scenes are other worldly – exaggerated to the extent that it is breathtaking and more shocking than previous boxing scenes in other movies. My favourite effect is the sound editing in the fights where silence and calm seem to descend just before key moments…..amazing. The relationship stuff is also gripping and Scorsese handles he human cost just as well as he shows us the physical beatings.

De Niro is amazing – the method stuff alone is great, but his whole performance is intense. Similarly Moriaty, Pesci and Frank Vincent are excellent – however they all stand in De Niro's shadow.

Overall – an excellent film on so many levels, as a story, as a examination of masculinity, as a sports film, as a lesson in direction and editing…..this excels in so many ways – may it never drop out of the top ten from the twentieth century!
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Another Scorsese masterpiece!
GavAnderson14 February 2005
Raging Bull is one of Martin Scorsese's best films and with out a doubt the best film of the 80's. It follows the career of middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta as his career progresses but his emotional problems worsen.

The most notable feature in Raging Bull is the colour. All but the home Video footage is shot in black and white. This was a huge risk on Scorsase's part but it defiantly pays off, the film wouldn't feel the same had it been done in colour.

Throughout the entire film acting is simply impeccable. De Niro and Pesci are both stunning. The script is amazing, you really feel like you understand every character, none of their actions seem out of character no matter how outrageous they may be.

Scorsese's directing is stunning. He really is a very talented director and in Raging Bull it shows. The fight scenes are famous for their brutal realism and it's easy to see why. He puts you right in the ring with the fighters and you cant help but admire their technical brilliance. However, the most stunning aspect of all is Thelma Schoonmaker's editing. Its some of the best editing I've ever seen especially during the fight scenes where it's positively breathtaking.

No matter what happens you always find yourself sympathising with La Motta, even during his most outrageous moments. Not only is Raging Bull the greatest film to come out of the 80's but is one of the greatest this century that's highly underrated and defiantly worth owning.

10 out of 10
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one of the most powerful movies, ever!
MrSharma2 October 2005
From the story of a one time middle weight champion of the world and his apparent necessity for internal conflict and self destruction, America's greatest director in the history of cinema has carved a masterpiece of a feature, teaming up with the greatest actor of his generation in order to establish what will no doubt go down in history as one of the most powerful films of all time. "Raging Bull", directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert deNiro in the brilliant performance that ensured him a well deserved Academy Award, is a raw feature film that will have you stunned at its conclusion and leave you reeling in your theatre, couch or bed until the final credit has finished rolling off the screen.

The film, adapted from another source, revolves around the rise and fall of Jake LaMotta (deNiro), an ambitious middle weight fighter who has struggled for years along with his manager brother (an unforgettable Joe Pesci) to get a shot at the title for the middle weight champion of the world. Frustrated with himself and the life that he's had to lead, LaMotta presents the complex mind of a self destructive man who's inhumanity and self-destructive nature push him away from all the people in the world that love him and ultimately transform him from a prize fighter into an overweight sleaze with nothing but the clothes on his back. From the flawless and gripping boxing scenes to the raw yet accurate portrayal of his abusive habits towards both his brother and wife, "Raging Bull" succeeds on absolutely every level.

DeNiro's performance in the film is unquestionably his finest piece of work in his own personal career, if not throughout the history of cinema altogether. Completely believable as a boxer, he furthermore went on a diet to put on 60 pounds for his scenes situated in the latter half of the film when he has hit rock bottom which is testament to both his dedication and his unparalleled skill of establishing a believable character. Joe Pesci is absolutely brilliant as his portrayal of Jake's brother, Joey LaMotta, and considering the fact that was one of his first feature films in the spotlight, he completely delivers a character who loves his brother unquestionably but who also has internal struggles regarding his own nature and his methods of dealing with his brother. I fell in love with Joe Pesci due to his performance here, and he is clearly one of the more talented and gifted actors within Hollywood.

Scorsese is also in top form, and you can feel his presence, his brilliance and his uncompromising dedication to showing you the real life and times of Jake LaMotta in every single piece of footage presented to you on the screen. Martin Scorsese illustrates the reason why he is considered by many to be cinema's greatest film director of all time as he takes you on a journey of Jake LaMotta's personal and public existence. Scorsese doesn't leave anything out, and his brilliance obviously lies within the fact that he can illustrate everything about a character in the simplest of scenes to make you empathise but simultaneously make you comprehend the various fundamental layers of such a despicable character in cinema history. And on top of that, he can make you like the character and hate the character at the exact same time - a brilliance unprecedented throughout Hollywood and surely testament to Scorsese's superiority to directors such as Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood who, despite having tremendous talent, cannot realistically present characters to the extent that Scorsese can.

Further supporting cast members, Cathy Moriarty and Frank Vincent deliver completely credible characters with Moriarty well deserving of her Oscar Nomination for her performance as Vickie. The editing was completely flawless and top notch throughout the entire feature with Scorsese's other partner - Thelma Schoonmaker - bringing Scorsese's incredible vision to life once more without a single complaint in the world. Brilliant cinematography ensured a visually compelling piece of work, exemplified further by an Oscar Nod towards this element of the picture also.

All in all, this is arguably the finest achievement from the Scorsese-DeNiro partnership, and it delivers everything that you would predict from our beloved Martin Scorsese. Love, deceit, hate, an underlying theme of violence, some of the best acting ever put on film as well as some of the most brutal and compelling sequences of boxing you'll ever see: all are shown with flamboyance and an honest brutality that we've come to accept as the trademark of Martin Scorsese in this poignant tale of one man's annihilation of self. And who is the only director who could realistically bring this to life? We all know the answer.

Well done, Mr Scorsese. Regardless of what the pretentious fools responsible for the decisions that the Academy makes, the people are fully aware of who the best director in town is.

"Raging Bull" is flawless and perfect. 10 out of 10, all the way.
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It really is harder to Stay At the Top than to Reach the Top; just because Life has No Justice.
CihanVercan24 September 2008
Whoever is dissatisfied by Raging Bull, I'm sure they watched it with expectations of watching a sports movie, like Rocky. Despite the AFI chose Raging Bull as the #1 sports movie of all time, you can't expect to see the most breathtaking boxing match nor to witness the best crochet of boxing history. Raging Bull can only be classified as a drama/biography. Director Scorsese chose to go with black&white cinematography only to keep the young viewers away from this masterpiece of art. It's not fair to compare Rocky with Raging Bull. Rocky was a populist movie mostly for young viewers, and Raging Bull is a cinematic masterpiece. From a wide point of view, for instance, if you look at one of the Michelangelo's paintings; at first you see a nude woman, if you look longer and deeper you realize that her nudity expresses some thought, if you look continuously and give a life to it in your imagination you discover that the women are not just their bodies. Accordingly, like it is not enough looking once to a painting to understand what opinion does it defend; it is not reasonable and not fair to watch Raging Bull so as to see a sports movie. Also it is not reasonable to see Raging Bull only once. Raging Bull is one movie that, every time you watch it you get a better taste, every time you watch it you discover something new.

Raging Bull taught us that even if you are the best at some skill, even if you are the best of all; you need to create witnesses, admirers and supporters of your skill. It's the only way to reach the top. Moreover, it is harder to stay at the top than to reach the top. Not because someone better than you can defeat you, it's just because of the need to be accepted on every authority; like the Council of Judges, the Media and the Admiration of People. Director Scorsese draws benefit from the hypocrisy of fame. He empowers Raging Bull to make people ask to their conscience if the popular values that people choose can really cherish their values.

In Raging Bull, Jake La Motta was the best boxer of all, but people didn't like him. He was disrespectful, he was uncivilized, he was very ugly, he was arrogant, he was irritable and he didn't care; 'cause he believed himself. Despite the fact that he is the best, everybody disliked him. Soon, he was left alone; and in a very short time he lost everything he possessed. When he opened his eyes back to life, he found himself in prison. The scene that he is punching and butting the wall facing him is one of the most heart rending memorable scenes of the whole cinema history.

At the end, he finally throws in the towel of believing himself, he loses his faith and becomes to learn what he never wanted to learn: The Fame. He starts running his own business at a night club under his name, working as a stand-up comedian at the stage. People laugh at him for the jokes he made out of his memories, the jokes paraphrasing the bitter facts of life; including the very famous joke of the British King Richard-III which he said in the year 1485 just before dying: "A horse, a horse... My kingdom for a horse!". There we understand truly: For every joke there lies a share of a fact underneath.
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The most important "boxing-movie" of all times
solitaryman29 February 2000
Jake La Motta's story is no doubt the best movie about boxing of all times together with Robert Wise's The Set-Up. Besides the legendary performance of Robert De Niro, there are many things in this film that will remain in my heart forever: the splendid black & white, the contrast between the slow moving scenes and the frenetic ones, the choice of the music and the sense of loss which entangles the whole movie. De Niro faces another "born loser" role (after Travis Bickle, John Rubin, Johnny Boy) and strikes again; Martin Scorsese is the most poetic director of the last 30 years.
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As perfect as perfect can be.
filmman1_9 December 1999
Raging bull is my favorite film. Robert de Niro's performance in this film is truly amazing and the direction from Scorsese and the script from Paul Schrader are flawless. The fight scenes are the most brutal that I have ever seen on film even though theres only like 12 minutes of them and the editing is simply brilliant. It should have earned Scorsese a best director oscar but at least they had enough sense to award de Niro the best actor oscar.

I'll come back to this film forever.
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There is a reason why they are referred to as the greatest....
JVe546253021 January 2002
From my understanding, before this film was made, Martin Scorsese, arguably America's greatest filmmaker, was at the end of his rope. He was about to call it quits. His good friend, arguably America's greatest film actor, Robert De Niro, approached him with a book he had read. The title of the book was Raging Bull. After some coaxing, Robert finally convinced his friend to do the film, and it resulted in a MASTERPIECE!!!!!

"Raging Bull" is the story of former boxing middleweight champion Jake La Motta, and his penchant for self-destruction. La Motta is not in the least a nice guy. He is well, a jerk, who eventually drives any and everyone who has ever cared about him out of his life. He evolved from a lean, trim boxer to an overweight loser who owns a night club.

This film currently ranks on AFI's 100 Greatest Movies at #24, and for very good reason. It contains arguably THE GREATEST acting performance in the history of cinema, by arguably the greatest actor in the history of cinema, directed by arguably the greatest director in the history of cinema. But together, nothing needs to be argued, they are the greatest tag team in the history of cinema. Robert De Niro is flawless, superb, excellent, amazing, any positive adjective is warranted by his performance. There is a reason why they call him the greatest actor. This is it. (also "Taxi Driver") Naturally, Scorsese's direction is flawless, and Thelma Schoonmaker's editing will pretty much speak for itself. The black-and-white(or tinted monochrome) was an ingenious touch, similar to William Friedkin's gunshot at the very end of "The French Connection". It is the most beautiful movie I have ever seen, if it were a woman I could only beg to drink its bathwater. Joe Pesci is excellent as Jake's brother Joey, as is Cathy Moriarty as Jake's long suffering wife. It is sad when you realize that De Niro will never act that great again, but you find solace in the fact that he once did. He is maybe my favorite actor, Scorsese maybe my favorite director, and I only hope to have a millionth of the impact they've had on film. Far superior to "Rocky", even though Rocky is very good and contains maybe the most inspirational theme song ever.

This film was criminally robbed of 1980's Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards, by "Ordinary People", another one of those dysfunctional family drama's. The Academy has since lost a huge amount of credibility, but I find solace in the fact that they honored De Niro with an award for Best Actor, in a performance that warrants two of them and makes me want to shine his shoes.

The film gets nothing less than a 10. It was voted the film of the 1980's decade. I agree wholeheartedly.

Scorsese and De Niro forever.
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Easy to Admire, Difficult to Love
JamesHitchcock27 February 2004
The routine use of black-and-white film to make movies seems to have ended in the mid-sixties, probably killed off by the advent of colour television. Since then black-and-white has been used very sparingly; even Polanski's `Chinatown', obviously conceived as homage to the films noirs of the 1940s and 1950s, was shot in colour.

`Raging Bull'- a biography of the boxer Jake La Motta who for a time held the world middleweight championship- is one of the few exceptions. The use of black-and-white seems to have been inspired by the fact that the film depicts real-life events that occurred in the forties and fifties. Scorsese has tried to capture the look of both the films and the newsreels of that period. This is remarkably effective for the boxing scenes, which have a raw, brutal power and graphically depict the aggressive nature of the sport. The other remarkable thing about the film is the performance of Robert de Niro, for which he won a well-deserved Best Actor Academy Award. De Niro actually learned to box for the film, and did all the boxing scenes himself without using a stunt double, but his portrayal of La Motta's private life is equally effective.

Some boxers- Henry Cooper comes to mind- are hard-hitting inside the ring but gentlemanly and restrained outside. La Motta, as portrayed in this film, did not fall into this category. De Niro portrays him as a man with a very short fuse, seething with anger and violence. Unlike his great rival Sugar Ray Robinson, an elegant practitioner of the art of boxing, La Motta tries to overpower his rivals with brute force rather than relying on skill. His aggression is not something confined to the ring, but rather an inherent part of his personality, and comes out in his dealings with others. He treats his beautiful wife Vicki particularly badly, frequently (and irrationally) suspecting her of infidelity and subjecting her to both verbal and physical abuse. Besides De Niro's dominating performance, there are also very good contributions from Cathy Moriarty as Vicki and from Joe Pesci as La Motta's loyal brother Joey, another frequent target of abuse despite his loyalty.

For me, this is a very good film, yet one that falls just short of the classic status that some have claimed for it. At times it is enthralling to watch, but at others, particularly in the first half, it seems to lack structure, as La Motta takes on a series of opponents without the significance of these fights ever becoming clear. More could have been made of the gambling-inspired corruption that infested the sport at this period and which may well have contributed to La Motta's sense of frustration- at one time it is made clear to him that his getting a chance to fight for the world title depends upon his taking a dive in a non-title fight. The main weakness, however, is a sense of emptiness at its centre, resulting from the lack of a character who can engage our sympathies. As I said, it is De Niro's performance that dominates the film, but for all his fine acting, even he cannot make us sympathise with a drunken, self-pitying, paranoid, violent wife-beater. As a character study of an unpleasant character it is excellent, but it can go no further than that. I cannot agree that this is the greatest film of the eighties; indeed, for me it was not even the greatest sporting film of the eighties. (I preferred both `Chariots of Fire' and `Eight Men Out'). It is an easy film to admire, but a difficult one to love. 7/10.
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Ostentatiously pretentious with a one-dimensional central character
mnpollio29 December 2006
Certainly a contender for the most overrated film ever made. I like some of Martin Scorsese's work, but I have never understood the near hysterical reactions elicited by critics and his die-hard fans over his contributions to cinema which, much like Steven Spielberg, range from wonderful to embarrassing. To them, every Scorsese film is "brilliant." However, despite the reassurances of various critical associations and hero-worshipping fans all too willing to declare this the greatest film made in the last 30 years, most viewers may well wonder what all of the hoopla is about. The film is a biography of boxer Jake LaMotta and documents his volatile, tempestuous nature both in the boxing ring and in his personal life. There is no doubt that Robert DeNiro hurls himself heart and soul into this role, but much of the accolades heaped onto his work center on the arduous physical labors he endured to get himself into fighting shape for LaMotta at his prime and then make himself fat to depict LaMotta having gone to seed. One must admire his dedication, but it was hardly the first time an actor had gone to such efforts – people quickly forget the weight gains of actresses such as Elizabeth Taylor for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf or Lynn Redgrave in Georgy Girl more than a decade prior to DeNiro in Raging Bull. Ironically, other than the physical, there is nothing to recommend LaMotta as a character around whom a movie should be centered. He greets every obstacle in his life, either person or event, by trying to batter it into bloody submission. There is no range to him and he is most certainly not a charismatic person. I certainly would not wish to spend more than a few moments in his presence much less the duration of this film, which ultimately depicts LaMotta as little more than a not especially intelligent, violent pugilist. The profane dialog is anything but memorable and the people who surround LaMotta are little more than ciphers. The film is brutal and often hard to watch, more so because of its pretense rather than brutality. Scorsese films the whole thing in stark black and white and choreographs some of the boxing footage with mournful classical music. All of these touches seem to indicate a serious subject of near biblical importance – but that subject most definitely is not seen on screen in the guise of LaMotta. Joe Pesci pretty much contributes his stock Joe Pesci performance as Jake's brother. The film's biggest attempt at humor comes at the expense of Cathy Moriarty, a whiskey-voiced actress who resembles a 30-year-old vamp but who the film initially tries to pass off as a virginal 15-year-old(!). To her credit, she gets past that initial hurdle and makes Vickie LaMotta the only sympathetic character in the film. Raging Bull is by no stretch a bad film, but it is a criminally overrated one done in by ostentatious pretentiousness and an unsympathetic central character who (no matter how amazing the actor's physical transformation) is nothing more than a one-dimensional thug.
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I flatter myself I know something about movies, but...
KubricksRube23 May 2002
Okay, let me explain where I'm coming from. I'm a movie fan. I mean a really big movie buff. My favorite directors are Chaplin, Keaton, Kubrick, Fellini, Tarkovksy, Malick, Wilder, Kurosawa, Welles, Reed, Lean, Bergman, Gilliam, Coen, Vidor, Ford, Benigni, and Cocteau, to name a few. But I had never gotten around to even seeing a movie by Scorsese, although I'd heard great things about him. You can imagine how excited I was to see that Raging Bull was number 2 on the Sight and Sound director's poll, and ranked the best movie of the 80s. I was gung ho. I was hoping to add Scorsese to my list of favorites. But then, I actually saw Raging Bull. I cannot for the life of me understand the glowing praise about this movie. Is it a bad movie? No. It's just nothing special. Scorsese's technique is, if anything, showy. De Niro and Pesci are wonderful actors, there's no denying that. But the movie as a whole just isn't particularly good. I can find nothing about this movie that would bring it even close to the accolades it has been given. Believe me, I wanted to like this movie. I thought it would be great and then some; equal to the Searchers or 2001, from the praise it got; but it was uninteresting. It was like the type of movie arthouse theaters show that is competently made but lifeless and boring, like Shine. I'm sorry. Call me an idiot. I did not like this movie.
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China Shop
tedg30 May 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

I'll be right up front. I admit Scorsese's skill but just don't like his films and certainly don't see any art in them.

That's because I disagree with him on what cinematic storytelling is all about. For him, characters are everything, which is why he needs sledgehammers as actors, and spikes (gangsters, etc) as the roles. Then he arranges for them to explode or simmer or steam, or explode again.

Every element of the eye is subservient to the character. He (always he except for his experiment with poor Alice) pulls the camera around. We as bound audience follow. It is all about involuntary submission to manufactured charisma. I don't like this style of storytelling. It ignores the greatest power of the camera's eye: to allow the audience to move in and out of spaces: personal spaces, narrative spaces, time folding, sometimes God, sometimes his victim. There's freedom and imagination when the eye is freed, and this is the real power of the filmmaker.

But with Martin, he ignores this power: the camera is bound. We are the weak sidekick, forced into respect. All the competence (here the editing is superb) is turned to an end which ruins the experience. Scorsese knows this, in fact at this point in his life he was feeling it, and that is why we get what we do. A camera that forces respect.

But alone of his films (I am re-seeing them all), this has a sweet pleasure. In the midst of the obligatory scene where DeNiro takes to himself in the mirror, we get a wonderful reference to Brando. This frames the film and explicitly acknowledges that most films (except those of the real geniuses) are about other films, not life. `Bull' stands on `Waterfront's' structure.

And DeNiro stands on Brando's shoulders. How brave to mouth the lines. Brando was intense, but that was not his innovation, it was an ability to project two performances simultaneously. Here DeNiro tries to equal or best that by playing three characters: himself besting Brando, his character equalling Brando's, and Brando wrestling with his character (which we see in `Waterfront' as a man wrestling with his inner self).

Watch how DeNiro tries. How he pushes too hard (something we can now call the Pacino/Cage error), how he loses control and knows it. Scorsese knows it too, and it speaks highly of them both to put DeNiro's `not world class' broken actor as representative of the broken `not world class' boxer. I appreciate that honesty. It makes this my favorite film of his (Scorsese).
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A complete waste of time
mfplajos25 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I am beginning to think that Martin Scorsese is the most overrated movie director of all times. Re-watching his oeuvre is a painful experience for me - discovering how pretentious and shallow his movies all are. Take Raging Bull.

De Niro won an Academy Award for gaining 60 pounds for a role in the name of method acting - so what? Does it change this utterly futile waste of celluloid?

I can't see a point watching this way too long story of a boxer, who - at the beginning of the film - is psychopathic, arrogant, sexist and primitive, turns into an unsuccessful boxer, then turns into a nightclub owner, then turns into a prisoner, and gee-whiz! he is still a psychopathic, arrogant, sexist and primitive man.

The moral is? Or is it an allegory? Nope. If anybody says it is, punch them in the face. Is it symbolic? Nope again. Does it reveal anything about anything? Sure, that De Niro is a great actor. And this, my friends, is way to little - we all know that, don't we?

I wish the scriptwriters had had anything to tell. Sometimes there are stories which are worth telling with no hidden agenda, or moral, or any of this stuff. This story isn't one of them. This is the biography of a moron who had no life. Why watch it?

I'm a BA, and still say go watch Rocky (!) instead. Even that's better.
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Scorcese robbed
blanche-225 June 2006
Well, I don't think I've ever been more disappointed in my entire life, but there it is.

I realize that this film lost to "Ordinary People," a film I love. I am not an idiot - I know that Martin Scorcese is a great, very gifted artist who puts powerful images on the screen. I agree that he has been cheated out of the Academy Award many times, which makes one realize they don't count for much.

For DeNiro, this stands as one of the greatest performances of all time. DeNiro is one of a handful of American actors who has earned his place at the top - he's there with Brando, Pacino, and Newman. "Raging Bull" helped put him there. As far as the rest of the acting, Cathy Moriarity epitomizes the '40s blond and a Bronx woman, and Joe Pesci is perfect as LaMotta's brother.

Scorcese presents here the turbulent life of Jake Lamotta with all its brutality, sparing us nothing in his fights, his anger against his wives, his brother, no one. His obsessive nature, his jealousy, his - well, hey, his rage - does not make him a likable character. LaMotta himself was disturbed by how he came off on screen, but then had the honesty to admit that he was a bastard.

Scorcese creates the Bronx and the bloody horror of the fight ring in a way no one else ever has. The first shot of the lone boxer in the ring is stunning, as is the real LaMotta's own practicing of a speech in a dressing room. Everything about this film evinces the aura of a special era, especially the color home movies - a brilliant touch.

The only problem I had with the film was that it was boring and unwatchable. I finally got so sick of all the screaming and yelling and watching this unlikeable, obnoxious character that I turned the set off. I thought if he tortured his wife one more time asking her if she slept with his brother, I was going to put my fist through the set.

This is the age-old question - you know something is great art but it doesn't speak to you. You like something that's very well done but a little less artistic better - does this means you are one of the masses for whom mediocrity has become your idea of what's good? I don't know. I like to think I can appreciate a beautifully made film. But I think what I can appreciate more than that are complicated characters I understand on some level - or want to understand, real emotions, real heartache - probably more than magnificent film-making. When there is both, it's magic. For me, "Raging Bull" was not one of those times. "Godfather I," "Godfather II," yes.

I really hate writing these comments.
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A Great Film But ...
Theo Robertson3 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Scorsese's RAGING BULL is rightly up held as a wonderful piece of film making . Robert DeNiro takes method acting to new heights . Yeah we've all heard the story about how he built his physique up by going to the gym and then after these scenes were filmed he did nothing but sit on his butt and gorge himself on junk food so he'd physically resemble the bloated and overweight Jake La Motta in later life , but this story is worth repeating again and again . Look at the scene where DeNiro uses the public phone box , he raises his arm to speak into the receiver and you can subtly see DeNiro's pot belly bulging out from his shirt . All the performances are good but DeNiro totally dominates the movie

It's not just an acting masterclass we see . RAGING BULL is very much an art house movie brought to mainstream cinema by Scorsese . Look at the scenes inside the ring . I doubt if a boxer would recognise these scenes as being realistic as such since everything about them are highly stylised . It's not a film that shows the gritty realism of being inside a boxing ring where two modern day gladiators fight one another , it's a film that paints the pain , poetry and ugly beauty of boxing . On a technical front this is absolutely superlative where editing , cinematography , make up and sound mix all come together

" Hey Theo , if it's such a great movie why have you only given this eight out of ten ? "

True it's a great movie and you didn't need me to point that out and when I say it's a very honest movie this is not meant as a criticism , in fact I do wish more movies would be far more honest when it comes to biopics , it's just that the problem with RAGING BULL can be summed up with the scene that starts with Jake and his brother banging on the TV set wondering why they can't get a picture . It's a scene that's wonderfully structured and built upon by the screenwriters , it's absolutely brilliantly acted by all the cast and superbly directed by Scorsese. It's just that it culminates with some extreme domestic violence and finishes with a haunting , nay heartbreaking scene of two children standing there as members of their family are brutally assaulted by La Motta . Don't be confused by what I'm saying , I don't want want biopics to be revisionist sycophants charters , it's just that for a movie to work perfectly the main protagonist must achieve some sort of empathetic connection with the audience and this is where RAGING BULL fails somewhat
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Over-rated movie
craig44-118 April 2008
I suppose I am in the minority, but I do not believe "Raging Bull" is a great movie, or even a particularly good movie.the photography is fine and the acting is very good, but I could find no reason why anyone would make a film about Jake La Mottas' life.There is no question, that Mr. La Motta was a fine boxer, but other than that there is nothing especially noteworthy about him. In fact, Mr. La Motta seems to have been a violent, abusive man.During the film, Mr. La Motta, beats on opponents in the boxing ring, beats on his wife, beats on strangers, beats on his own brother, and beats on cement walls.Jake La Motta isn't the only violent member of the family. Jakes brother Joey(Joe Pesci) commits an extremely brutal assault against a stranger just for talking with his brothers wife. Its fine to make biographical films about less than noble people, but there should be an underlying lesson.All I learned from "Raging Bull" is that Mr. La Motta was a violent, abusive jerk.
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Well made, but dull
RIK-2213 January 2004
It would be wrong to say this film is rubbish, it certainly isn't, but it's important to remember that a films purpose is to entertain, inform or move you in some way. Unfortunately this film is devoid of all three.

Like a number of films it's technically well made, the acting is fine, but the story and the characters are exceedingly uninteresting. People say that DeNiro's performance is amazing, well, I don't know how you can say that. His character comes across as selfish paranoid psycho, with absolutely no morals and no redeeming qualities. Yet we know he has married twice, so there must have be something people liked about him. Unfortunately the film is too heavy on the negative side, no balance is shown to Jake's character, so the believability and ultimately the interest in the film disappears.

In fact this is rather typical of Scorsese, a very overrated Writer/Director. I liked Taxi Driver and GoodFellas, but most of his films are actually very poor (Casino, Gangs of NY, Cape Fear).

Forgettable and uninteresting, yet technically well made film.

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adrian-j-hill29 June 2004
Maybe if I saw this before Casino and Goodfellas, I would have liked this more, but it sucked in comparison to those two. Apart from Joe Pesci, I thought this movie was damn near unbearable. DeNiro did a great job acting, but it was wasted on this boring character and horrendous plot! DeNiro said all of two things to Vicki and supposedly she wasn't a girl you "F and leave" but DeNiro did it with two phrases. He took a dive and got the championship and self destructed for no apparant reason. Why was this interesting? The story itself wasn't interesting and the movie didn't enhance the true story at all. Cathy Moriarty was attractive and nothing more. The rest of the characters other than the La Motta brothers added nothing and were drab and blah. Goodfellas and Casino had a better plot and the characters had more depth and overall were much better movies. Except for "I heard things" and Joe Pesci, I want the 2 hrs of my life back.
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Not too great
Tucker20071 September 2005
I'll sum the whole movie up for you: 75% of the movie is wife beating and screaming. 25% is boxing reenactments. Jake lamotta isn't a hero, but more of a villain. I couldn't really connect with his character, because whenever he got a chance to talk, he screamed at everyone. Boxing didn't seem to be a big part of his life either, there were never any scenes where he was struggling with his career, or boxing was affecting his life in any way. You might as well make a movie documentary on joey buttafuco. This movie wasn't any good in my opinion. And when I hoped that he would come to his senses, he doesn't. I guess it's also hard for me to connect seeing as I didn't know who Jake lamotta was until I watched this movie. If you like wife-beating new yorkers who constantly yell. Watch this movie.
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Abravise Characters But It Draws Me Back
ccthemovieman-12 December 2005
Here's a gritty, film noir-type story of real-life former boxing champion Jake LaMotta, a film that has features some memorable aspects to it.

Perhaps most memorable is the physical transformation of lead actor Robert De Niro, who gained somewhere around 50 pounds to play LaMotta at the end of this film. I hope he enjoyed all the food and drink it must have taken to put on that weight!

The story moves well with few, if any, lulls and each fight scene is fairly credible although a little too brief. I'd like to have seen more boxing but it's better than having to sit through the overdone action as we saw in the "Rocky" pictures. The black-and-white photography is excellent in here. I wish more modern-day films were done in black-and-white.

Usually the Hollywood actresses are a lot better looking than the real-life people they portray but that's not the case here with LaMotta's wife, Vicki. Cathy Moriarity doesn't hold a candle to the real "Vicki," who was a knockout, a voluptuous woman feature several times in Playboy magazine. Also, early on in the film Moriarity is supposed to be 15 years old but she looks closer to 35!

Typical of a Martin Scorcese film, too, is the excessive profanity, which certainly dominates this film. Perhaps LaMotta was this crude in real life but between De Niro and his brother, played by Joe Pesci, it's a very foul-mouthed, loud and abrasive family. If you can stand that constant profane assault on your ears, it's still a very watchable movie until the last 20 minutes where LaMotta is pictured as a pathetic clown, getting tossed in jail, resorting to stupid jokes and just uncomfortably sloppy behavior that is not fun to watch.

Despite all the unpleasant parts of this story, I found this to be one of those films that kept getting better with multiple viewings. Hard to figure, but, Scorcese must have done a few things very well for me to keep coming back. The photography alone, is one thing that keeps drawing me back.
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Perhaps the Only One in the U.S. to put down this film
JaredF8018 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I may be alone on this but Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull does not deserve the praise it has garnered recently, best illustrated by its lauded praise for the recently released commemorative double DVD box set.

I hate to be the one to attack Scorsese who just directed the best film in a long, long time, in The Aviator and it pains me to write this scathing review. It is only I have not seen any critic criticize the film's plot holes, jarring dialogue or disparate scenes that do not gel into a coherent portrait.

The film is too redundant, and at times silly, as we watch De Niro's LaMotta transform into a heavy-set monster. It is mainly silly in LaMotta's cell late in the film, in which DeNiro (clearly given the green light by Scorsese to improvise) basically talks in gibberish as a way to pity LaMotta.

Take also for instance the strange editing from DeNiro in the ring against Sugar Ray Robinson, which is juxtaposed by making love to Cathy Moriarity's Vikki. I do not get the montage when DeNiro pours ice water on his genitals with shots in the ring. It is very confusing and also, unintentionally funny.

It is an authentic film for sure, taking much from 1950s boxing films, most notably Bogart's last film, The Harder They Fall.

I have not come across one critic who has put down this film, often cited as the "best film of the decade," and a "masterpiece." Scorsese has directed a lot of films befit for those descriptions, Casino and The Aviator stand out for me.

Yet, Raging Bull hardly is a masterpiece, and yet hardly anyone agrees with me. Maybe someone will… maybe in another twenty five years.
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Difficult to watch but an absolute masterpiece
phattdirty26 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Contains possible spoilers.

First of all I should qualify this comment by saying that I am a massive fan of Scorsese - pre-Cape Fear anyway. This is definitely his masterpiece (although Goodfellas gives it a run for its money) and the finest of his collaborations with Robert De Niro. The fact that its shot in black and white works very well because it gives it an authentic feeling - sometimes its easy to forget that this film was made in 1980 and not 1940. Robert De Niro gives his all in arguably his best performance. The scene where his punches the cell wall and bangs his head against it is incredibly difficult to watch and possibly the best single piece of acting I have ever seen on film. He IS Jake La Motta for the 2 hours of this movie. The way he gets inside the psyche and mindset of a brutal cold hearted beast like La Motta is admirable to say the least and absolutely mindblowing to be honest. Yes this film can be hard to watch simply because La Motta is such an unlikeable guy and his self destructive personality is difficult to warm to. The domestic violence he inflicts on his wife is particularly hard to swallow but it's this violent and abhorrent behaviour which makes the character so compelling whilst so unlikeable.

The cinematography of the fight scenes is simply amazing. On the DVD it explains that Scorsese put a fire underneath the camera lens to get the hazy appearance of some of the shots - genius. The scene which sticks in my mind most vividly is where Sugar Ray Robinson is destroying La Motta and his face explodes in a burst of blood and broken noses. The shot of La Motta's blood flying into the faces of the boxing judges is pretty gruesome, as is the shot of his blood dripping from the ropes after he loses the fight.

What makes this film so powerful is the fact that is based - quite accurately - on Jake 'The Bronx Bull' La Motta's real life. He appears on some of the special features of the DVD. Now a frail, cracked faced old man, he cracks jokes and comes over as quite a charmer. But having seen his antics portrayed so convincingly by De Niro in the movie, it still isn't easy to like him.

This really is a magnificent film. Superb acting from the ever brilliant De Niro and good support from Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriati complement Scorsese's stunning direction. One of my top 3 films of all time along with Amelie and Shawshank Redemption. Do not miss.
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