Raging Bull (1980) Poster

(1980)

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10/10
Essential masterpiece; powerful De Niro; simply one of the best films of all time.
MovieAddict20165 April 2004
"Raging Bull" isn't the average, stereotypical underdog boxing movie, because it isn't really about boxing at all. Like most great movies, its focus is much deeper. It came out in 1980, earned Robert De Niro a Best Actor Academy Award, and was marked down as another solid triumph by director Martin Scorsese, whose previous 1976 outing with De Niro earned them both critical acclaim (and for De Niro, an Oscar nomination, although he would actually earn an Oscar for "Raging Bull" four years later).

It dwindled in production hell for quite some time, with Scorsese's drug use halting production and only the duo's strong willpower that kept the project moving ahead. It was after De Niro read boxer Jake LaMotta's memoirs that he knew he wanted to make the film, so Scorsese and De Niro turned to Paul Schrader for a script. Schrader, who had previously written "Taxi Driver" (1976), agreed, and wrote the screenplay for them. The rest is history.

"Raging Bull" has often been regarded as the greatest film of the 80s. To be honest, I'm not so sure about that, since various genres offer different feelings and emotions (comparing this to a comedy might seem rather silly). But to say it is one of the most powerful films of all time would be no gross overstatement -- it is superb film-making at its finest.

De Niro gained 60 pounds to play LaMotta, which was an all-time record at the time (later beaten by Vincent D'Onofrio, who gained 70 pounds for Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket"). His physical transformation is on-par with any great screen makeover, especially the most recent, ranging from Willem Dafoe in "Shadow of the Vampire" to Charlize Theron in "Monster." In addition, co-star Joe Pesci also lost weight for his role of Joey, LaMotta's short, eccentric brother. The greatest scene in the film is when LaMotta accuses his brother of having an affair with his wife. The tension is raw, the dialogue amazing, and the overall intensity electrifying.

The film is most often compared to "Rocky," more than any other, apparently because they both concern a certain level of boxing. As much as I absolutely adore "Rocky," "Raging Bull" is a deeper, more realistic film. But whereas "Raging Bull" is raw, "Rocky" is inspiring, and that is one of the reasons I do not think these two very different motion pictures deserve comparison, for the simple fact that they are entirely separate from one another. The only connecting thread is the apparently central theme of boxing, which is used as a theme in "Rocky," and a backdrop in "Raging Bull." They're entirely different motion pictures -- one uplifting, the other somewhat depressing -- and the people who try to decide which is better need to seriously re-evaluate their reasons for doing so. They both succeed splendidly well at what they are trying to do, and that's all I have to say about their so-called connection.

De Niro, who could justifiably be called the greatest actor of all time, is at the top of his game here. In "Taxi Driver" he displayed a top-notch performance. He wasn't just playing Travis Bickle -- he was Travis Bickle. And here he is Jake LaMotta, the infamous boxer known for his abusive life style and somewhat paranoid delusions during his reign as world middleweight boxing champion, 1949 - 1951. Throughout the film, he beats his wife (played expertly and convincingly by the 19-year-old Cathy Moriarty), convinced that she is cheating on him, and that is more or less what the film is truly about. The boxing is just what he does for a living, and could be considered as a way to release some of his deeper, harbored anger.

LaMotta has a close relationship with Joey, his brother, and their interaction is often what elevates the film above others of its genre. The dialogue is great, close to the perfection of Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction," rich in that rapid-fire filthy language and brutal insults. Pesci, who was on the verge of quitting showbiz at the time of pre-production, was spotted by De Niro in a cheap B-movie named "The Death Collector" (1975), a.k.a. "Family Business," a truly horrid film that nevertheless showcased an early sign of things to come for Pesci. De Niro wanted him for the movie and his premonition was either very lucky or very wise -- this is one of the best performances of Pesci's entire career.

Scorsese shot the film in muted black and white, portraying a certain era of depression and misery. To make the blood show up on screen during the occasional fight scenes, Scorsese used Hershey's Syrup -- which is an interesting tidbit of trivia for any aspiring film-making planning on filming a violent movie in black and white. But how often does that happen?

This is certainly one of the most intense films Scorsese has directed, and one of the most important of his career. Along with "Taxi Driver," it is an iconic motion picture that will stand the test of time for years and years to come.

Scorsese and De Niro's partnership over the years has resulted in some of the most influential and utterly amazing motion pictures of all time: "Mean Streets," "Taxi Driver," "The King of Comedy," "Goodfellas" and "Casino" come to mind almost instantly. But perhaps the one single title that will be remembered as their most daring effort is "Raging Bull," a motion picture so utterly exhilarating that it defies description. It is simply a masterpiece for the mind and senses, leaving you knocked out cold after its brutal one-two punch. If I had to assemble a list of required viewing, this would be up there towards the top.
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Some technical aspects of this cinematic masterpiece
head_radio28 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
The first surprising thing about Raging Bull as a film is its black and white photography, with the only colour footage being the short home video sequence of La Motta's wedding. Originally, the decision to shoot the film in black and white was based specifically on cinematographer Michael Chapman and Martin Scorsese's memories of 1940's boxing bouts, which they remembered as black and white flash photos in magazines. People's memories of Jake La Motta's fights would have been black and white ones and therefore it seemed right to shoot in black and white, even though at first they had fears this would be seen as too pretentious. The particular visual intensity of the fight scenes, however, was partly due to financial difficulties rather than directorial choices. In an attempt to keep the picture on schedule, two separate lighting styles had to be adopted. Jake's life outside the ring would be kept as simple as possible, and this meant that the scenes in the ring could be concentrated on more. They would be shot entirely in the Los Angeles studio and would be highly stylised. This is how the dazzling visual nature of the fight scenes was allowed to come about. Scorsese, suffering from a low point in his career, was convinced this film would be his last and wanted to go out with a bang. Hence he decided to give the fighting scenes all he could, since he had nothing to lose anymore.

What Scorsese disliked about the previous boxing films he had seen was the way the fights were shown from ringside, adopting a spectator's view, which protected the audience from the brutality inside the ring. For Raging Bull, Scorsese was determined to get as close as possible to the raw violence of the fights. He would film inside the ring and make the audience feel every punch. His plan was to shoot the fight scenes as if the viewers were the fighter, and their impressions were the fighter's, and never to insulate the audience from the violence in the ring. The viewers would think, feel, see and hear everything the boxers would. Aside from the opening fight, La Motta's first professional defeat against Jimmy Reeves, there would be no cuts to the baying of the crowd. For the Reeves fight Scorsese chose to include some chaotic backlash from the crowd showing their disapproval of the judge's decision, but apart from this scene, Scorsese's mantra throughout the film was 'Stay in the ring'. Each intricately choreographed fight would have a different style in order to reflect La Motta's different states of mind at the time of the fights.

Jake La Motta was consultant for the film, and the fights were depicted as he remembered them. For example, in his second fight against Sugar Ray Robinson, the ring is wide and brightened by the radiant white of the canvas making the scene feel free and open, and a relatively comfortable atmosphere. This is because La Motta won this fight, a great victory against his great rival. In contrast to this, the ring in his next fight against Robinson, which he lost on a controversial decision, was designed by Scorsese as a 'pit of hell'. In the opening shot of this fight, Scorsese has made everything look unclear and indistinguishable. This time, the ring is very dark and smoky which increases the blurred, unfocused feel of the fight. Often during this fight, faces are out of frame. For example when the two men are boxing La Motta's face is often blurred out by smoke or hidden by his opponent's body. This is seen once again when he is in his corner for the break in between the rounds; the shot has his face completely covered by one of the ropes of the ring. This was how La Motta himself remembered it; these events will remain unclear in his mind since he could not work out why he had lost. This sequence depicts a particularly upsetting part of La Motta's memories, and perfectly illustrates how he was feeling at the moment of the fight.

Just as important as the look of the film was the sound. As with the cinematography, two different styles were adopted to differentiate between La Motta's life in and out of the ring. The fight scenes were recorded in Dolby Stereo with heightened, often animalistic sound effects and a striking use of silence. This contrast with the dialogue in the film, which was recorded normally, was used to emphasise La Motta's heightened sense of awareness in the ring. The most memorable use of sound in the film, in particular the use of silence, is in La Motta's fourth fight against his great rival Sugar Ray Robinson. The rounds are punctuated by eery silence, giving an impression of slow motion and evoking the idea of what would be running through the boxers' heads. Just as memorable was the decision to use an animal's breathing for Robinson's final attack on La Motta. Everything is standing still, there is a striking silence throughout and all that can be heard is the bestial breathing building the suspense, as if Robinson was a lion about to strike on its prey. The next sequence is an extremely fast montage of cuts showing La Motta being badly beaten by Robinson. This scene moves between Robinson and La Motta at a rapid pace to suit the lightning fast boxing of which La Motta is on the receiving hand. This was carefully planned out and storyboarded beforehand by Scorsese and then skilfully brought to life by editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who won an Oscar for her work.
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10/10
It doesn't get much better than this
waltergl25 November 2002
Easily one of the most powerful films I have ever seen. I have watched it at least ten times, and it only gets better and better with each viewing. Martin Scorsese is absolutely the greatest filmmaker of the last quarter century, and this film is his best. The story of how boxer Jake LaMotta watched his career and marriage crumble under the weight of his violent temper and deep-rooted misogyny is told with no punches pulled (excuse the bad pun), as Deniro (in what may be his best performance) and Scorsese unflinchingly explore what drove this man over the edge, and what ultimately may have pulled him back. The boxing scenes easily rank with the most brutal and violent moments ever put on film, shot in stark, unadorned black and white and utilizing unlikely sounds including shattering windows and animal cries to great effect. Thelma Schoonmaker's jarring, discordant editing in these scenes also deserves special mention. The scenes of domestic violence are not for the faint of heart, but there is really no other way to tell this story. If there is a more perfect exploration of why as men we act the way we do, then I'd love to see it, because this movie made me re-evaluate my life. 10/10
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Scorsese's Best? De Niro's Best? The 1980s' Best? Probably on All Three
tfrizzell28 September 2000
Warning: Spoilers
"Raging Bull" is a cinematic masterpiece which pulls no punches. Based on a true story, Robert De Niro (in his second Oscar-winning role) stars as Jake La Motta, a middle-weight prize-fighter from the late-1940s and early-1950s, who basically destroys himself and those around him because of an uncontrollable temper and poor decision-making. Instead of going down as one of the greatest boxers of all time, La Motta ruined his career because he was unable to see the "big picture". He threw bouts, he got involved with low-life underworld crime figures, he beat his wife (Cathy Moriarty, in her Oscar-nominated role), he abused all those closest to him, and he had relationships with young girls who were still considered minors. Even his strongest tie, his younger brother (Joe Pesci, in an Oscar-nominated, star-making part), gets cut during the course of his untimely self-destruction. La Motta goes from middle-weight champ to a washed-out stand-up comic at a local club. He gains weight uncontrollably and ultimately just becomes another face in the crowd by the end of the film. By the end, La Motta proclaims that he: "Could have been a contender....", quoting Marlon Brando's famous line from "On the Waterfront". "Raging Bull" is one of those films that is masterfully crafted in all possible departments. The screenplay is one of the best in the history of film. Martin Scorsese's direction is superb and so is the cinematography (shot almost entirely in black-and-white). The film delivered De Niro an Oscar and also won for its editing. "Raging Bull" is one of those films that is very close to "Citizen Kane". They both deal with men who desperately want to be great, but ultimately destroy themselves and those around them. This film is often rated the best film of the 1980s. I cannot argue with that opinion. I also think that this is the best work that Scorsese and De Niro have ever done. The fact that this film lost the Best Picture Oscar to "Ordinary People" in 1980 is probably the biggest disappointment since "Citizen Kane" lost to "How Green Was My Valley" in 1941. Excellent. 5 stars out of 5.
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10/10
Another Scorsese masterpiece!
GavAnderson14 February 2005
Raging Bull is one of Martin Scorsese's best films and with out a doubt the best film of the 80's. It follows the career of middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta as his career progresses but his emotional problems worsen.

The most notable feature in Raging Bull is the colour. All but the home Video footage is shot in black and white. This was a huge risk on Scorsase's part but it defiantly pays off, the film wouldn't feel the same had it been done in colour.

Throughout the entire film acting is simply impeccable. De Niro and Pesci are both stunning. The script is amazing, you really feel like you understand every character, none of their actions seem out of character no matter how outrageous they may be.

Scorsese's directing is stunning. He really is a very talented director and in Raging Bull it shows. The fight scenes are famous for their brutal realism and it's easy to see why. He puts you right in the ring with the fighters and you cant help but admire their technical brilliance. However, the most stunning aspect of all is Thelma Schoonmaker's editing. Its some of the best editing I've ever seen especially during the fight scenes where it's positively breathtaking.

No matter what happens you always find yourself sympathising with La Motta, even during his most outrageous moments. Not only is Raging Bull the greatest film to come out of the 80's but is one of the greatest this century that's highly underrated and defiantly worth owning.

10 out of 10
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Classic examination of masculinity
bob the moo16 March 2002
The story of boxer Jake La Motta from his rising star in the 1940's through to his own downfall and his eventual living on the cabaret circuit in the present day.

Scorsese and De Niro – nobody needs say any more. Whether it be media satire (King of Comedy), small time thugs (Mean Streets) or real gangsta s**t (Goodfellas), the two rarely miss. This was one of their best to date (and probably for ever). The story is fascinating in itself but as an examination of masculinity it excels. The film allows us to watch a man who goes along with all the things he thinks make him a man – even when those characteristics and habits begin to destroy everything he has – his marriage, his realtionships and his career. Combine this with the gripping boxing tale of ups and downs and you have a film that never outstays it's welcome.

Scorsese is on top form – the use of black and white any have been a quality issue, but he uses it well. The fight scenes are other worldly – exaggerated to the extent that it is breathtaking and more shocking than previous boxing scenes in other movies. My favourite effect is the sound editing in the fights where silence and calm seem to descend just before key moments…..amazing. The relationship stuff is also gripping and Scorsese handles he human cost just as well as he shows us the physical beatings.

De Niro is amazing – the method stuff alone is great, but his whole performance is intense. Similarly Moriaty, Pesci and Frank Vincent are excellent – however they all stand in De Niro's shadow.

Overall – an excellent film on so many levels, as a story, as a examination of masculinity, as a sports film, as a lesson in direction and editing…..this excels in so many ways – may it never drop out of the top ten from the twentieth century!
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9/10
It really is harder to Stay At the Top than to Reach the Top; just because Life has No Justice.
Whoever is dissatisfied by Raging Bull, I'm sure they watched it with expectations of watching a sports movie, like Rocky. Despite the AFI chose Raging Bull as the #1 sports movie of all time, you can't expect to see the most breathtaking boxing match nor to witness the best crochet of boxing history. Raging Bull can only be classified as a drama/biography. Director Scorsese chose to go with black&white cinematography only to keep the young viewers away from this masterpiece of art. It's not fair to compare Rocky with Raging Bull. Rocky was a populist movie mostly for young viewers, and Raging Bull is a cinematic masterpiece. From a wide point of view, for instance, if you look at one of the Michelangelo's paintings; at first you see a nude woman, if you look longer and deeper you realize that her nudity expresses some thought, if you look continuously and give a life to it in your imagination you discover that the women are not just their bodies. Accordingly, like it is not enough looking once to a painting to understand what opinion does it defend; it is not reasonable and not fair to watch Raging Bull so as to see a sports movie. Also it is not reasonable to see Raging Bull only once. Raging Bull is one movie that, every time you watch it you get a better taste, every time you watch it you discover something new.

Raging Bull taught us that even if you are the best at some skill, even if you are the best of all; you need to create witnesses, admirers and supporters of your skill. It's the only way to reach the top. Moreover, it is harder to stay at the top than to reach the top. Not because someone better than you can defeat you, it's just because of the need to be accepted on every authority; like the Council of Judges, the Media and the Admiration of People. Director Scorsese draws benefit from the hypocrisy of fame. He empowers Raging Bull to make people ask to their conscience if the popular values that people choose can really cherish their values.

In Raging Bull, Jake La Motta was the best boxer of all, but people didn't like him. He was disrespectful, he was uncivilized, he was very ugly, he was arrogant, he was irritable and he didn't care; 'cause he believed himself. Despite the fact that he is the best, everybody disliked him. Soon, he was left alone; and in a very short time he lost everything he possessed. When he opened his eyes back to life, he found himself in prison. The scene that he is punching and butting the wall facing him is one of the most heart rending memorable scenes of the whole cinema history.

At the end, he finally throws in the towel of believing himself, he loses his faith and becomes to learn what he never wanted to learn: The Fame. He starts running his own business at a night club under his name, working as a stand-up comedian at the stage. People laugh at him for the jokes he made out of his memories, the jokes paraphrasing the bitter facts of life; including the very famous joke of the British King Richard-III which he said in the year 1485 just before dying: "A horse, a horse... My kingdom for a horse!". There we understand truly: For every joke there lies a share of a fact underneath.
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10/10
one of the most powerful movies, ever!
MrSharma2 October 2005
From the story of a one time middle weight champion of the world and his apparent necessity for internal conflict and self destruction, America's greatest director in the history of cinema has carved a masterpiece of a feature, teaming up with the greatest actor of his generation in order to establish what will no doubt go down in history as one of the most powerful films of all time. "Raging Bull", directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert deNiro in the brilliant performance that ensured him a well deserved Academy Award, is a raw feature film that will have you stunned at its conclusion and leave you reeling in your theatre, couch or bed until the final credit has finished rolling off the screen.

The film, adapted from another source, revolves around the rise and fall of Jake LaMotta (deNiro), an ambitious middle weight fighter who has struggled for years along with his manager brother (an unforgettable Joe Pesci) to get a shot at the title for the middle weight champion of the world. Frustrated with himself and the life that he's had to lead, LaMotta presents the complex mind of a self destructive man who's inhumanity and self-destructive nature push him away from all the people in the world that love him and ultimately transform him from a prize fighter into an overweight sleaze with nothing but the clothes on his back. From the flawless and gripping boxing scenes to the raw yet accurate portrayal of his abusive habits towards both his brother and wife, "Raging Bull" succeeds on absolutely every level.

DeNiro's performance in the film is unquestionably his finest piece of work in his own personal career, if not throughout the history of cinema altogether. Completely believable as a boxer, he furthermore went on a diet to put on 60 pounds for his scenes situated in the latter half of the film when he has hit rock bottom which is testament to both his dedication and his unparalleled skill of establishing a believable character. Joe Pesci is absolutely brilliant as his portrayal of Jake's brother, Joey LaMotta, and considering the fact that was one of his first feature films in the spotlight, he completely delivers a character who loves his brother unquestionably but who also has internal struggles regarding his own nature and his methods of dealing with his brother. I fell in love with Joe Pesci due to his performance here, and he is clearly one of the more talented and gifted actors within Hollywood.

Scorsese is also in top form, and you can feel his presence, his brilliance and his uncompromising dedication to showing you the real life and times of Jake LaMotta in every single piece of footage presented to you on the screen. Martin Scorsese illustrates the reason why he is considered by many to be cinema's greatest film director of all time as he takes you on a journey of Jake LaMotta's personal and public existence. Scorsese doesn't leave anything out, and his brilliance obviously lies within the fact that he can illustrate everything about a character in the simplest of scenes to make you empathise but simultaneously make you comprehend the various fundamental layers of such a despicable character in cinema history. And on top of that, he can make you like the character and hate the character at the exact same time - a brilliance unprecedented throughout Hollywood and surely testament to Scorsese's superiority to directors such as Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood who, despite having tremendous talent, cannot realistically present characters to the extent that Scorsese can.

Further supporting cast members, Cathy Moriarty and Frank Vincent deliver completely credible characters with Moriarty well deserving of her Oscar Nomination for her performance as Vickie. The editing was completely flawless and top notch throughout the entire feature with Scorsese's other partner - Thelma Schoonmaker - bringing Scorsese's incredible vision to life once more without a single complaint in the world. Brilliant cinematography ensured a visually compelling piece of work, exemplified further by an Oscar Nod towards this element of the picture also.

All in all, this is arguably the finest achievement from the Scorsese-DeNiro partnership, and it delivers everything that you would predict from our beloved Martin Scorsese. Love, deceit, hate, an underlying theme of violence, some of the best acting ever put on film as well as some of the most brutal and compelling sequences of boxing you'll ever see: all are shown with flamboyance and an honest brutality that we've come to accept as the trademark of Martin Scorsese in this poignant tale of one man's annihilation of self. And who is the only director who could realistically bring this to life? We all know the answer.

Well done, Mr Scorsese. Regardless of what the pretentious fools responsible for the decisions that the Academy makes, the people are fully aware of who the best director in town is.

"Raging Bull" is flawless and perfect. 10 out of 10, all the way.
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10/10
The most important "boxing-movie" of all times
solitaryman29 February 2000
Jake La Motta's story is no doubt the best movie about boxing of all times together with Robert Wise's The Set-Up. Besides the legendary performance of Robert De Niro, there are many things in this film that will remain in my heart forever: the splendid black & white, the contrast between the slow moving scenes and the frenetic ones, the choice of the music and the sense of loss which entangles the whole movie. De Niro faces another "born loser" role (after Travis Bickle, John Rubin, Johnny Boy) and strikes again; Martin Scorsese is the most poetic director of the last 30 years.
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10/10
As perfect as perfect can be.
filmman1_9 December 1999
Raging bull is my favorite film. Robert de Niro's performance in this film is truly amazing and the direction from Scorsese and the script from Paul Schrader are flawless. The fight scenes are the most brutal that I have ever seen on film even though theres only like 12 minutes of them and the editing is simply brilliant. It should have earned Scorsese a best director oscar but at least they had enough sense to award de Niro the best actor oscar.

I'll come back to this film forever.
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