Raging Bull tells the incredible story of Jake La Motta, (De Niro) a boxer famed for being the first person to beat, the great, Sugar Ray Robinson in a professional bout. La Motta prided himself on never going down in a fight and in1949 went on to become middleweight champion after beating Marcel Cerdan in the tenth. His hardest battles, however, were fought outside the ring against his inner demons and uncontrollable rage, often directed towards his wife Vickie, (Cathy Moriarty) and brother Joey, (Pesci). This would all lead to a dizzying downward spiral into domestic violence, alcohol abuse and eventually prison. From Champ to bloated strip club compere.
Raging Bull is that rare thing; it is the result of the coming together of many talented actors at the very peak of their respective careers. It is in short, a true classic. The performances are uniformly excellent. De Niro’s is often highlighted, (he got the oscar) due to the gruelling training he underwent to get in shape for the ring. And for the face stuffing he had to endure in order to fill out for the latter parts of the film; but Cathy Moriarty and especially Joe Pesci more than hold their own in less showy roles. Thelma Schoonmaker deservedly won the oscar for editing; the fight scenes are incredibly well done, making you feel like you are in the ring with the fighters and not just watching Raging Bull online free from the comfort of your sofa. Scorsese’s direction is first class; he really was on top of his game when making this, perhaps his most personal film. At times the full movie is heavy going and difficult to watch, certainly not a Friday night, mates and beer affair, but it is undeniably brilliant and well worth watching.
Shot in black and white, (because when Scorsese thought of boxers from the era he always remembered them from the flash bulb photos in the sports pages or from the old news reel footage), Michael Chapman’s cinematography is beautiful every frame effortlessly evoking the period. I was surprised at the amount of detail, the fight scenes especially look fantastic.
The Bronx Tale is a 26 minute introduction to the movie. The real life Jake La Motta shares his views and some anecdotes on the movie of his life, and Thelma Schoonmaker talks through some of the editing techniques used for the fight scenes. All very interesting, but could we have some more please and while we’re about it where is Scorsese, or De Niro or Pesci? Jake’s Jokes is five minutes of Jake sharing his stand up routine with us, okay but hardly essential and could have been edited into a longer documentary on the making of the film. Last of all is the trailer, and a couple of easter eggs.