Review by Brian Koller|
3½ stars out of 4
Considered by many to be the best film of the 1980s,
"Raging Bull" falls short of that extremely high
standard. However, it is still a great film, with
excellent performances from Robert De Niro and
Joe Pesci, and glorious black and white cinematography.
"Raging Bull" tells the story of middleweight boxer
Jake La Motta, from relatively early in his career
to about a decade after his retirement. This covers
the years 1943 through 1964. La Motta is the scourge
of his division, with only Sugar Ray Robinson able
to defeat him. La Motta, an argumentative and
violent man, is managed by his equally querulous
brother Pesci. La Motta leaves his hostile first
wife for blond beauty Cathy Moriarty, but his obsessive
jealousy towards her threatens their marriage as well
as his relationship with his brother.
Eventually, La Motta's career fails due to age and
corpulence. He becomes a night club entertainer,
falls on hard times, but he is no quitter.
"Raging Bull" isn't for everyone. There is much
violence and "adult" language. The film should appeal
to men more than to women. Men will be more likely
to sympathize and even admire La Motta, while women
will be more likely to condemn him for his violence
and self-destructive ways.
De Niro put on nearly fifty pounds in order to better
play the older, heavyset La Motta. This is acting
beyond the call of duty. De Niro is cool and intense
at the same time, but Pesci also gives a great
performance. The dialogue between De Niro and Pesci
is great, and the flood of obscenities is admittedly
"Raging Bull" is a relentless character study, but
there is some comic relief. La Motta buys a newfangled
television set, and is unable to get a picture on it.
One scene has him staring blankfaced at a scrambled
"Raging Bull" won Academy Awards for Best Actor
(De Niro) and Film Editing (Thelma Schoonmaker).
The editing award was undoubtedly due to the boxing
sequences, with their unusual slow motion and close-ups.
The film was also nominated for Best Picture,
Best Supporting Actor (Pesci) and Actress (Moriarty),
as well as Director (Martin Scorsese) and Cinematography
Copyright © 1995 Brian Koller