Raging Bull
4.3Overall Score

Finally after years of “I really have to see this one”-procrastination, I utilized a train ride to my parents and the sunk costs of USD 2.99 on iTunes to finally catch up to one of the early Scorsese-DeNiro classics. In a way this was indeed a very interesting movie but of course it is really hard to put any movie which is already over 30 years old against the test of time. And I deliberately attempted to ignore this constraint but of course you kind of fall back into this thought process all the time – well at least I do. And truth to be told, the movie didn’t hold me captive as other more recent Scorsese movies like Good Fellas, The Departed or the most recent Wolf of Wall Street. And that certainly is something which can be attributed to the different pacing of this movie than the one we are used to these days.  But again this movie is not about pacing or being “entertained”, Raging Bull is more of an in-depth character study of the rise and fall of its main figure Jake LaMotta – which actually is worth a wikipedia read. And that very depiction of its main character is done in an absolute masterful way by Robert DeNiro for which he deservedly earned the Academy Award as Best Actor. When watching this movie today, you can really tell how this was a “character” defining movie for DeNiro, so many of his later almost trademarks are rooted in this film; the uncontrolled anger, the “italian-machoism” and the versatility of his characters. Also this being the first big production of the dream combo DeNiro-Pesci, it already shows the first seeds of more great things to come (see Good Fellas and Casino). I did enjoy however to see Pesci as a calmer and more thoughtful character here than being the little psycho – even though these are of course more entertaining to watch. Throughout its duration, the movie stays very focused on LaMotta’s character; his triumphs, his conflicts both within boxing but mainly in his family life. And again, DeNiro is just the perfect actor to display a character that torn, insecure, violent and ultimately just broken.

Courtesy of trashnoirreviews.wordpress.com

Courtesy of trashnoirreviews.wordpress.com

It is also interesting to see the shift in our society also within how movies were made, “Raging Bull” does not really put a major effort into portraying a strong female character. Cathy Moriarty does play a great wife but her character (as well as Joe Pesci’s wife) are the typical “wives” of old movies and well women had a different role in society back in the day. I just mention that since nowadays almost every movie of substance does have at least one strong female lead in it…but again, the main focus is all DeNiro and well he does a kickass job with a character defining performance of his life.

Moving on to the shooting of this film, the choice of staying black and white is of course an interesting one. But I believe that it truly fits the premise of the movie given that it is staged in the 40s-50s. And even with the limitaton put upon yourself with black-and-white in a time without special effects, Scorsese does a great job in shooting the fighting scenes, they are graphic and dramatic and all that with a simple “black-and-white-camera”.

Overall, as stated above, this was indeed a good movie and I am happy to have finally watched it, as it fills a big void in my personal library. And anyone who hasn’t should consider it …. but to be fair, it certainly was not the most entertaining Scorsese production we have seen (but I also felt the same way about Taxi Driver).

So that is what Erwin thinks…..

The Good

  • Character defining acting performance by Robert DeNiro
  • Great chemistry between DeNiro and Pesci defining the birth of cinema super-duo for years to come
  • Interesting character study of Jake LaMotta

The Bad

  • Epic movie but does not necessarily stand the test of time
  • Still a Scorsese in “development”


Courtesy to www.impawards.com

Courtesy to www.impawards.com

  • Running time: 129 min
  • Genre: Classic, Drama
  • Year: 1980

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