Raging Bull

1980, Movie, R, 129 mins

Review

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RAGING BULL is an uncompromisingly brutal and emotionally devastating movie based on the life of middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta. The film chronicles the life of the fighter from 1941 until the mid-1960s and is chiefly concerned with the irrational and violent LaMotta's struggle to find peace within himself. Loosely based on LaMotta's autobiography and filmed in gorgeous black and white, the story begins in 1941 and follows LaMotta (Robert De Niro), who is managed by his brother, Joey (Joe Pesci), as he pursues the middleweight championship. During his rise to the crown the hostile LaMotta is distracted by both the local mafia's efforts to control his career and his romance with 15-year-old Vickie (Cathy Moriarty). Eventually LaMotta divorces his first wife to marry Vickie, but the extremely paranoid and insanely jealous boxer abuses both his wife and his brother when he unjustly suspects them of wrongdoing. LaMotta eventually wins the championship (in a bout with Frenchman Marcel Cerdan), but quickly relinquishes it to his nemesis, Sugar Ray Robinson (Johnny Barnes), who defeated LaMotta five out of the six times they met. The collapse of his boxing career coincides with the destruction of his personal life, and, estranged from both his brother and his wife, the now-bloated boxer begins the long road back to personal salvation.

Fueled by Martin Scorsese's brilliant direction and a magnificent Oscar-winning performance by De Niro--who gained nearly 50 pounds to play the older, fatter LaMotta--RAGING BULL is one of the most powerful boxing films ever made. Often unpleasant and painful to watch, the film is a no-holds-barred look at a violent man in a brutal sport, in which, amazingly, the wholly unsympathetic LaMotta attains a state of grace at the end that is inspiring. As usual, the director is examining maleness in this film, and RAGING BULL has a way of zeroing in on masculine values and codes, and how they weigh men down. The film's senseless feel for violence forces you to consider its place in the male idenity--it's easier for most men to retreat into than honest emotion. Many people feel BULL was the best movie of the 80s; like the decade, it leaves a sour taste that lingers long after. leave a comment

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