Raging Bull (1980)

raging bull poster 1980 movie
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great, complex movie


Movie Info

Movie Name: Raging Bull

Studio:  Chartoff-Winkler Productions

Genre(s): Drama/Sports

Release Date(s): November 13, 1980 (Premiere)/December 19, 1980 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

raging bull jake lamotta robert de niro

Let the fighting begin!

Boxer Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro) thinks he can be number one if he gets his shot at the title.  With his brother Joey (Joe Pesci) managing him, he is fighting his way to the top and trying to avoid outside influence like the people of his neighborhood who believe they should have a say in Jake’s future.  The Raging Bull is a monster in the ring and can intimidate other fighters with his relentless attack.  Jake LaMotta has always been a fighter, but he has also battled demons.  With a deep jealous streak and a beautiful wife named Vickie (Cathy Moriarty), Jake struggles to keep the fight in the ring.

Directed by Martin Scorsese, Raging Bull is a boxing biopic drama of Jake LaMotta (July 10, 1922-September 19, 2017).  Following Scorsese’s New York, New York in 1977, the film is an adaptation of Jake LaMotta’s 1970 memoir Raging Bull:  My Story which was written with Joseph Carter and Peter Savage.  The film was released to positive reviews but criticism of its violence.  It won Academy Awards for Best Actor (De Niro) and Best Film Editing with nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Pesci), Best Supporting Actress (Moriarty), Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, and Best Picture (which it lost to Ordinary People).  The film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1990.  It is frequently listed in “Best of” movie lists in multiple categories.

raging bull domestic abuse jake lamotta robert de niro cathy moriarty

It’s a touching love story…or not

We had to watch Raging Bull for a film class in college.  It was used to present lots of different topics from sports films to dramas to editing.  Like other boxing films, boxing might be the basic theme, but Raging Bull rises above one genre to be a great film.

Jake LaMotta is a complex character.  Having seen the film, the boxer questioned if it was accurate to his persona because of how rotten it portrayed him at points (and Joey LaMotta sued for his portrayal).  The fact that LaMotta was alive and the film is very unflattering to him is a show of good faith that Scorsese would do the project right…and he does.  Unlike a lot of biopic pictures that are seeming to fill the theater, there isn’t much of a denouement where the subject reflects on his situation.  It is rather refreshing because life generally doesn’t work out that cleanly.

raging bull sugar ray fight jake lamotta robert de niro makeup

I’m good…I just need to shake it off a bit

De Niro is legendary in the film.  The movie was noted for De Niro putting on all the weight for the end scenes as the older LaMotta, but instead of being just an acting gimmick, it genuinely changes his persona and presence.  The once intimidating guy is doing bad stand-up on the stage…it is sad (though he still could probably knock most people through a wall).  Pesci is a bit more restrained in the film as the “calm brother” of the two (except in the Copacabana scene) and Cathy Moriarty also goes from strong woman, to kept woman, and regains her strength in the end.

The movie also looks fantastic.  The crisp black and white probably tells the story better than if it was the bright blood of the fights.  The boxing feels real and the make-up and look is brutal.  Boxing actually takes up a small part of the screentime and the non-fighting scenes are deftly crafted and shot as well.

raging bull jake lamotta weight gain robert de niro

Look…Jake LaMotta is doing his Jon Favreau cosplay!

Raging Bull is one of those “Must See” movies.  Not only is it a great and complex film, it has influence on a lot of other films that followed it.  If Scorsese’s early films like Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore made him a name, Raging Bull cemented his legacy and turned him into a one named director…seeing a new Scorsese picture meant something (though Raging Bull also set-up a high bar for him to clear for future pictures).  Scorsese followed Raging Bull with The King of Comedy in 1982.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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