REVIEW: Raging Bull (1980)

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1980, United Artists/Chartoff-Winkler Productions

Director:
Martin Scorsese
Producers:
Robert Chartoff
Irwin Winkler
Writers:
Paul Schrader (screenplay)
Mardik Martin (screenplay)
Joseph Carter (screenplay)
Peter Savage (screenplay)
Jake LaMotta (original book)
Cinematography:
Michael Chapman
Editing:
Thelma Schoonmaker

Cast:
Robert De Niro (Jake LaMotta)
Joe Pesci (Joey LaMotta)
Cathy Moriarty (Vickie LaMotta)
Frank Vincent (Salvy)
Nicholas Colosanto (Tommy Como)
Theresa Saldana (Lenore LaMotta)
Mario Gallo (Mario)
Frank Adonis (Patsy)
Joseph Bono (Guido)
Frank Topham (Toppy)
Lori Anne Flax (Irma LaMotta)

The life of legendary boxing champion Jake LaMotta from 1941 to 1964 is depicted in this Academy Award-biopic from the legendary Martin Scorsese driven by the performance of Robert De Niro as the embittered boxer.

Jake LaMotta is an up-and-coming boxer who has suffered a loss in his first fight in Cleveland against Jimmy Reeves. LaMotta longs to be the champion but would rather do things his own way instead of being influenced by the local mob, run by Tommy Como, who can guarantee that with them, LaMotta could get an eventual shot at the middleweight champion. As if his problems within the ring aren’t bad enough, his aspirations are causing his marriage to fall apart in addition to his infatuation with 15-year old Vickie, who knows Jake’s brother Joey.

Jake and Vickie eventually form a relationship and get married. Meanwhile on his own terms, Jake begins to win match after match. Things begin to unravel when during his time off, Jake begins to gain weight and when Joey books him for a match, Jake is extremely mad. As if that’s not bad enough, his anger grows to jealously when he suspects Vickie may be cheating on him. He goes as far as accusing Joey of having an affair with Vickie. While Jake eventually succumbs to the mob and in return, finally wins the Middleweight Championship, his personal life unravels even more and more, all culminating to a downward spiral in which Jake now must seeks the means to redeem himself in a way he never expected.

Hailed as one of the greatest boxing films in history, this film depicts the rise and eventual fall of Jake LaMotta, a Bronx-born pugilist whose rivalry with Sugar Ray Robinson has been known throughout sports history. The rise comes in terms of his career as a boxer but the fall comes in terms of his personal life in this film, written by Paul Schrader, Mardik Martin, Peter Savage, and Joseph Carter. The movie was adapted from the autobiography by LaMotta, who supported the film by acting as the film’s consultant and even trained Robert De Niro for the boxing scenes.

It is De Niro who truly drives the film as the embittered LaMotta, who while playing the boxer is in great shape, had to gain seventy pounds for the later LaMotta scenes and the film’s opening scene. This physical transformation along with his acting ability shows exactly why De Niro deservingly won the Best Actor Award at the Academy Awards for his portrayal of LaMotta. As much as his performance is taken seriously, there is a comical scene where Jake goes off on his first about a steak that at times can be seen in other forms of pop culture.

Joe Pesci, at the time, a newcomer to acting, brilliantly displays the chemistry that would make De Niro and him a Scorsese “dream team” when the trio worked together in later films such as Goodfellas and Casino. As Joey, Jake’s brother who tries to help him on the straight and narrow despite his own demons, Pesci is great in the role while Cathy Moriarty also brings a great performance as Vickie, Jake’s second wife who first supports her husband only to fall victim to the jealousies of the boxer. While the mob provides some important secondary characters, the film’s trio of main characters are the focus of the film for most of the film up to the focus of Jake post-boxing career where we see his downward spiral and attempt to redemption.

Raging Bull is truly a look at the rise and fall of a champion, driven by the Award-winning performance of Robert De Niro, who gives it his all both in and out of the ring as Jake LaMotta with excellent support by Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty along with some excellently choreographed boxing scenes. A winner of a biopic.

WFG RATING: A+

DVD/BLU-RAY

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