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Movie Review — Raging Bull

While the foul language and blaspheming of my Lord is dreadful in this movie, Raging Bull is probably one of Robert De Niro’s best performances, and I think the best movie Martin Scorsese every directed in his long career. The movie is mostly in black and white, focuses on the life of middleweight boxer of the 1940’s and 1950’s Jake LaMotta, also known as ‘Raging Bull’ as he could be so vicious in the boxing ring. Jake often fought boxing legend Sugar Ray Robinson, as few other boxes were, according to the movie at least, willing to fight them. So, they thought each other.

The movie starts in 1964, as Jake LaMotta, overweight, is preparing himself for a comedy gig, which then goes back to his earlier life as a boxer in 1941. Jake LaMotta portrayed as aggressive, mean, nasty. I had the impression he may have been suffering from many psychological issues. The film doesn’t explore LaMotta’s childhood or his reasons for taking up the sport, but it is obvious he wanted to take all his issues into boxing. Unfortunately, he takes it out on his family, his first wife who was strong and wouldn’t take his poor treatment of her. She could stand up for herself. after losing his first major boxing match against Jimmy Reeves in 1941. She gave as good as she got.

He soon puts on his charm, to woo his second wife, Vickie who was fifteen but who marries Jake a few years later. He also treats her poorly, as he does his brother Joey who is also his manager. LaMotta finally wins the Middleweight title against Marcel Cerdan on the 16th of June 1949 after been suspended from boxing for a year or so for deliberately throwing a fight. For Jake’s latter life after boxing, De Niro physically put on 60 pounds/27 kilograms. It was not lost on me, that for both of his wives in the movie, there was a crucifix above their bed. God was not important to Jake. He was always suspecting with his wife cheating on him. In 1957, now retired and putting on the pounds, he is charged with introducing underage girls in his nightclub. This is something Jake always denied.

As good as this movie is, it may not be for everyone. Jake was not a nice character. His temper, his suspicions if Vickie was cheating on him, would destroy his relationship with her and his brother Joey. I say again, the language and blaspheming were awful. In real life, he married seven times. I felt that the boxing scenes, with Jake fighting was almost a sideshow to a movie that focused more on LaMotta. As one friend reminded me, there is little boxing in it. The movie ends as it had begun in 1964, as Jake is preparing for one of his comedy routines, bookending the movie leaving me with a feeling he felt little remorse for his life.

Directed: Martin Scorsese Starring: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty & Joe Pesci Genre: Boxing/Drama Rating: 16+ Year: 1980

Note: This book review is from Carl Strehlow, a valued member of Coffin Nation.

Photo credit: Youtube screenshot


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