What some may consider a masterpiece of filmmaking others might not and may see that same film in a completely different light. That’s ok, it’s the beauty of films and filmmaking while still being a fan of the craft. We all see things differently than the next person, but it’s how we react and explain our opinions that matter most. No one wants an opinion shoved in their face, it’s not how we should share our thoughts about anything. Like most things, film is subjective, and it will always remain that way.
Raging Bull which is based off the 1970 memoir Raging Bull: My Story tells Jake La Motta’s (Robert De Niro) story as a boxer and his life after retiring from the sport. Jake is a potential contender for the middleweight title. He trains with his bother Joey La Motta (Joe Pesci) who gets him ready in fighting shape. During his rise to the title Jake meets Vicki (Cathy Moriarty) and the two fall in love and get married. Their marriage is by any means a happy one as they constantly bicker and fight leading up to a divorce after Jake retires from the sport of boxing.
For the time that this film is released, it’s considered a masterpiece by all accounts, acting, direction, music and editing. Viewing this film in today’s world, Raging Bull doesn’t hold up in the slightest. Everything that makes this film an achievement just doesn’t work or feel authentic. Jake is the epitome of toxic masculinity. He’s simply a bully and he use his brute personality to get his way without suffering little to no consequences. He’s jealous, insecure and most of the times manic and yet we still want to root for this guy to win a belt?
“Well go ahead and kill if you’re a tough guy, go kill people! Kill Vicki, kill Salvy, kill Tommy Como, kill me while you’re at it, what do I care? You kill yourself, the way you eat! Ya fat fuck, look at you!”
De Niro’s performance highlights that gross jealousy, but it doesn’t come off flattering at all – it’s sad that Jake is so insecure that he cannot believe the truth if it is punching him in the face, which it does throughout his life. He buns all his bridges and you have to wonder did director Martin Scorsese really believe this was a good way to portray the boxing champ? Did no one see how deranged and selfish this person was throughout his life? It can’t be just me, Can it? As the story progresses, I was rooting against Jake from the boxing standpoint and his homelife. There is no way that behavior would be justified in today’s world.
One thing that can instantly take you out of this film is the fact that Vickie is an underaged minor being pursued by LaMotta who is of age at the time they met. Consent or not, it’s a bad look on how men view women. Vickie is treated like an object and the question begs to be asked again why Scorsese would want to highlight this. It’s a stylistic choice that doesn’t age well given the MeToo movement. Every Scene between Jake and Vickie is painfully hard to watch given the age Vickie is when they first visit Jake’s fathers home. It’s baffling that it took all those years of verbal abuse for Joey to see who his brother really is and you end up feeling bad for Joey and Vickie.
Add to that is the cringeworthy dialogue and script written by Paul Schrader and Mardik. Every time Jake says something, it either ends in a brawl or a screaming match. This is not how normal people talk to each other nor react to what is being spoken. Some scenes are drawn out longer than they need to be which slows the pace down considerably forcing the viewer to want to check how much time is left. Given the run time of this film, you feel like every second excruciating long.
“If you win, you win. If you lose, you still win.”
Raging Bull isn’t the first boxing film to ever release and it certainly isn’t going to be the last. The boxing choreography feels mishandled. Scorsese is by no means a fan of sports including boxing and it shows. There is no way that a person can take all those punches to the head and body and stay standing up. It’s not authentic to the sport and also to the genre given that there have been two Rocky films released prior to this. The lack of understanding holds the action back from having the impact it was hoping to have.
Overall, Raging Bull is not the masterpiece it is made out to be. Mixed with horrifying character development, a snail like pacing to an overly drawn out story and a poor choice in direction, Raging Bull doesn’t hold up well to today’s standards of society. It’s hard to watch and often times boring and severely overrated. Depended on how you view the world, this will either be an absolute favorite or a complete and utter mess of a film. If I were to rate Raging Bull, I’d rate it a 1 out of 5.
So, tell me guys, have you seen Raging Bull and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
Raging Bull is directed by Martin Scorsese is Rated R and has a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Raging Bull was released on December 19, 1980 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 9 minutes. Raging Bull can be purchased on Retailers such as iTunes, Google, & Vudu.
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