Combining some of my least favorite elements in film...boxing, abuse, and rapid-fire vulgarity and insults, I was less than excited to watch Raging Bull. While often called one of the greatest films of the 80's, and in some cases, one of the greatest films of all time, I still entered into film very hesitantly. Alas, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Rocky with my brother when I was younger, so maybe this movie, about boxing legend Jake LaMotta, would be as entertaining.
For certain, this movie is nothing like Rocky. While both movies focus on a boxer, their similarities end there. While Rocky is inspirational and uplifting, Raging Bull is depressing and painful. Where this movie succeeds is focusing on the emotions and character behind the boxer. I enjoyed watching the relationship between Jake and his brother Joey. Sibling relationships are always unique, and with Jake's temper and paranoia's, this one is certainly filled with tension and electricity.
The acting in this film is spot on, but my favorite part of this movie was the score, which was achingly beautiful. The slow motion scenes with the powerful accompaniment of the score were breathtaking.
Uhhhh....Scorsese. I have a love/hate relationship with his work. While he certainly found a niche early on telling modern stories of crime and violence, I have yet to relate to, feel for, or have a genuine desire to follow the stories of his violent characters, such as Travis Bickle of Taxi Driver, Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, or Charlie or Johnny Boy in Mean Streets. The Catholic undertones of guilt and redemption weigh too heavily on me like a thick coat of syrup, the violence goes beyond what we need to see as an audience to put the pieces together, and most of his films leave me feeling like and I need to take a long shower. Only when he ventures into different territory and genres, such as with The Age of Innocence or even The Aviator, do I feel like I can breathe while watching.
I am a big fan of Cathy Moriarty's, and I loved seeing her in this film. She played her role as an abused wife to painful perfection. I would have preferred even more depth to her storyline. I would have probably preferred to see this movie more from her perspective than from the "Raging Bull's."
I'm sure that many will chastise me for feeling and saying this, but I am not a big DeNiro fan. Granted, he is sublimely talented at what he does, but typically, no matter which character he is playing, while he is completely true to that character and plays it as realistically as possible, DeNiro bothers me while onscreen. He gives me this unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I'm not comfortable again until he is offscreen. To that, however, I must also give him immense praise. The reason I that I adore films and filmmaking is the power that it has to transport ones emotions. To be able to change the way a person is feeling and thinking from the time the opening credits roll until the end credits is amazing to me. That power alone is awe-inspiring. Happy, sad, angry, unsettled...if you are transformed to a new mood, one that is different than the mood you arrived with, this is a sign of a job extremely well done by the writer, director, cast and crew.
I don't think that I will sit through Raging Bull again, but if you are interested in true to life, intense character studies, this movie is worth at least one viewing.