2016, Sunset Pictures/That’s Hollywood
Chris Anderson (original book Raging Bull II: Continuing the Story of Jake LaMotta)
Sharon McGehee (original book Raging Bull II: Continuing the Story of Jake LaMotta)
Jake LaMotta (original book Raging Bull II: Continuing the Story of Jake LaMotta))
Rustam Branaman (screenplay)
Martin Guigui (screenplay)
William Forsythe (Jake LaMotta)
Joe Mantegna (Rick Rosselli)
Tom Sizemore (Tony)
Paul Sorvino (Giuseppe LaMotta)
Penelope Ann Miller (Debbie Forrester)
Mojean Aria (Young Jake)
Ray Wise (Father Joseph)
Natasha Henstridge (Sally)
James Russo (Rocky Graziano)
Robert Davi (Aaron Levy)
Cloris Leachman (Lilian Forrester)
Mike Starr (Jerry)
Bruce Davison (D.A. Bonomi)
Over three and a half decades after Robert DeNiro’s Oscar winning performance of boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, this new film, originally meant as a sequel, is more of a different take that highlights the rise and fall of the one-time “Bronx Bull”.
As he is about to be indicted for throwing a fight many years ago, former world champion boxer Jake LaMotta reminisces about his childhood. Raised by a stern father, Jake has always learned that the world is all about survival of the fittest. When his father puts Jake in a series of local street fights against some of the local tough boys, Jake gains the endurance to be able to continue fighting. However, when he is sent to a Catholic boarding school, Father Joseph properly teaches Jake the art of boxing, thus setting up the beginning for what would be his prolific career.
As Jake attempts to live his life after retirement, he learns the hard way that it is not without its obstacles. First, he deals with losing his third wife after he lets his ego get the best of him again. His friend, Rick, puts Jake in a near fatal situation with local mobsters after he refuses to help them on a job. As Jake meets another woman named Debbie and gets in good with her, his life also finds a major positive when he reunites successfully with estranged daughter Lisa. As Lisa and Jake’s father-daughter relationship grows stronger, Jake soon realizes that Rick has been leeching off Jake’s former success. As Jake continues to make himself a better person, he compares the obstacles to his life inside the ring. Will Jake finally be able to achieve a better life for himself?
When the film was originally announced in 2012, it was intended to be a sequel to the 1980 classic Raging Bull. However, a contract clause resulted in a lawsuit that was settled out of court when the filmmakers agreed to re-name the film. In some ways, this can be seen as a sequel of sorts to that film. Yet without DeNiro reprising the role of Jake LaMotta, it truly doesn’t make sense as his performance earned him the Best Actor award at the Academy Awards. However, the idea to juxtapose LaMotta’s in-ring action with the obstacles that plague his life is a very smart move as it shows the endurance that LaMotta has in terms of making a better life for himself.
That doesn’t mean that William Forsythe doesn’t bring out a good performance as LaMotta. For what can be pretty much be a “new” take on the story, Forsythe is actually pretty good as the titular Bronx Bull. Where Raging Bull focused mainly on the career and some of the post-ring career of LaMotta, this film can meshes as a prequel followed by little in-ring action followed by the viewer following on the more elder LaMotta as he attempts to just make his life better. We see the ego that made LaMotta an uncontrollable “raging bull” when he confronts Sally’s boss, accusing him of sleeping with her.
Joe Mantegna brings some decent support as the leeching Rick, who only makes the most of his success known because he is the best friend of LaMotta. However, he gets LaMotta in a pickle with two local mobsters, played by Tom Sizemore and Mike Starr. Natasha Henstridge and Penelope Ann Miller play the women who LaMotta fall for while there is good reason why the father-daughter relationship between Jake and Lisa seems natural. It is because Lisa is played by Forsythe’s real-life daughter Rebecca.
The Bronx Bull will ultimately be unfavorably compared to Raging Bull, but it is actually a decent look at the life of Jake LaMotta before and after the ring. William Forsythe’s portrayal of LaMotta may not be a Oscar-winning performance, but he definitely drives the film quite well.
WFG RATING: B-