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Raging Bull

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

*Also starring: Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent, Nicholas Colasanto, Theresa Saldana, John Turturro

Review by Brian Koller
3½ stars out of 4

Considered by many to be the best film of the 1980s, "Raging Bull" falls short of that extremely high standard. However, it is still a great film, with excellent performances from Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, and glorious black and white cinematography.

"Raging Bull" tells the story of middleweight boxer Jake La Motta, from relatively early in his career to about a decade after his retirement. This covers the years 1943 through 1964. La Motta is the scourge of his division, with only Sugar Ray Robinson able to defeat him. La Motta, an argumentative and violent man, is managed by his equally querulous brother Pesci. La Motta leaves his hostile first wife for blond beauty Cathy Moriarty, but his obsessive jealousy towards her threatens their marriage as well as his relationship with his brother.

Eventually, La Motta's career fails due to age and corpulence. He becomes a night club entertainer, falls on hard times, but he is no quitter.

"Raging Bull" isn't for everyone. There is much violence and "adult" language. The film should appeal to men more than to women. Men will be more likely to sympathize and even admire La Motta, while women will be more likely to condemn him for his violence and self-destructive ways.

De Niro put on nearly fifty pounds in order to better play the older, heavyset La Motta. This is acting beyond the call of duty. De Niro is cool and intense at the same time, but Pesci also gives a great performance. The dialogue between De Niro and Pesci is great, and the flood of obscenities is admittedly entertaining.

"Raging Bull" is a relentless character study, but there is some comic relief. La Motta buys a newfangled television set, and is unable to get a picture on it. One scene has him staring blankfaced at a scrambled signal.

"Raging Bull" won Academy Awards for Best Actor (De Niro) and Film Editing (Thelma Schoonmaker). The editing award was undoubtedly due to the boxing sequences, with their unusual slow motion and close-ups. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Pesci) and Actress (Moriarty), as well as Director (Martin Scorsese) and Cinematography (Michael Chapman).

Copyright 1995 Brian Koller

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