Raging Bull (1980) Review

Director: Martin Scorsese

Genre(s): Biography, Drama, Sport

Runtime: 129 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Raging Bull may be a boxing movie, but it sure isn’t Rocky (1976). Directed by Martin Scorsese, this film is about the rise of violently psychopathic boxer Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro). Is this critically acclaimed movie a masterpiece or just a bunch of raging bullshit? I think that the truth lies somewhere in between those two extremes.

This sports biopic is occasionally criticized for revolving around a person with no redeeming value outside of the boxing ring. Robert De Niro’s dedication to the role is admirable (he gained around sixty pounds for parts of filming), but the character he plays is simply a low-life, abusive brute with no control. He can’t really be considered a tough guy, due to his out-of-control paranoia and thin skin. A good motion picture doesn’t need to be centered around a good guy, but Raging Bull‘s characters are so despicable that it really hurts the feature.

The saving grace of this flick are its more sports-oriented scenes. It really comes alive in the boxing ring. These sequences are filmed amazingly well, being simultaneously ugly and beautiful. It seems like Scorsese is trying almost every trick in the book to make the audience feel immersed in the brutal sport. It’s a shame the rest of the film has to deal with Jake LaMotta viciously lashing out against everybody in his life.

In addition, Raging Bull feels a little episodic, never building up to a proper climax. Just about the only emotion inspired by the work is revulsion. As part of the American Film Institute’s AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies (1oth Anniversary Edition) retrospective in 2007 it was named the fourth-best American movie of all time. Really? It’s not a bad movie, but the fourth-greatest American film of all time? This is higher than the likes of Schindler’s List (1993), The Wizard of Oz (1939), the original Star Wars trilogy, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), etc.? I don’t think so.

My rating is 6 outta 10.

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