It’s appropriate that Raging Bull was shot almost entirely in black and white; it feels like a tragic dream ballet, or a fading memory of a once-great champion that stumbles closer and closer to his demise without really trying. The real artistry stems from the fact that Martin Scorsese doesn’t attempt to make this story larger than life– he steps aside and lets Jake LaMotta destroy himself.
The script is based on the life of the aforementioned boxer, Jake LaMotta (played by Robert De Niro). In his time, LaMotta was a world-class, middleweight boxer. His accolades included a 14-0-1 start to his career and the claim to the middleweight title in 1949 with a successful defense in 1950. Raging Bull focuses less on LaMotta’s time in the ring and keys in on his notorious temper, jealousy, and paranoid tendencies.
In the beginning, we follow his meteoric rise to stardom and his budding relationship with his second wife, Vickie La Motta (played by Cathy Moriarty). Throughout time, Jake becomes increasingly wary of his wife’s sexual fidelity, confronting her in nearly every other scene about her whereabouts and intentions. He even goes as far as questioning his own brother, Joey (played by Joe Pesci), about his relationship with Vickie.
By the end of the film, Jake has alienated everyone that he knows– his emotional, and physical, abuse seemingly knows no bounds– so he ends up friendless, hopeless, and wifeless, working as an MC in the bar that shares his namesake.
This movie is a treat, but not the sweet kind. It’s more like dark-chocolate– it lingers on the tongue, it’s bitter, and, depending on the quality, it can make you reflect on your own life. Raging Bull is a meditation about one man’s struggle with the emotions that made him a champion. His quick temper, his focus, and his intensity made him a great boxer, but it also made him impossible to love. That’s a true tragedy.
Matt's rating: 4.5/5 Gabe's rating: 4/5 Rewind Cinema composite: 8.5/10