Raging Bull (1980)

13.02.06 - By Geoffrey Ciani: The other day, I had a conversation with Mushroom Mag colleague, Christian Twiste, wherein we discussed an article written by another colleague, Mr. ‘No Relation’ Ebert. The topic of the conversation revolved around Ebert’s declaration that Raging Bull was the best film of the 1980’s. Was this true? Was Raging Bull truly the best film released that decade? Well, on its face, it was a difficult assertion to challenge; indeed, this movie is on a very short list of best film from the 80’s, if not at the very top.

In an ironic twist of fate, another colleague of mine, Mark O’Grady (who stars in the new hit reality series, Seeking Madam Mushroom), was recently given a copy of this movie as a gift. Much to my delight, this afforded me the opportunity to once again view this masterpiece, allowing me to reconsider the merits of Ebert’s claim.

Having not seen this film in several years, it was an absolute pleasure to review. The dynamic duo or Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci is simply impeccable. Their portrayal of the LaMotta brothers is top-notch by any measurable standard. Throughout the movie, the constant bickering between these two over the most nonsensical issues provides entertainment value of the highest order. Indeed, both are well deserving of the Oscar-winning performances they put forth. I’m not sure that either of them ever put in a performance like that before or since; truly, they were in a class of their own in this particular project.

The story is a biographical tale of professional boxer, Jake LaMotta (DeNiro) which follows his life both inside and outside of the ring. In the ring, LaMotta is a menacing force; outside the ring, he’s an emotional mess, plagued by his own insecurities. Although his life inside and outside the ring can be viewed in terms of ‘light & shade’, there is one constant illustrated by Jake’s character throughout the movie: rage! This very same rage which enables him to have a successful career in professional boxing also acts as an impetus for his downward spiral outside the ring. Jake’s self-destructive nature ultimately ends every meaningful relationship he had, including that with his wife, Vikie (Cathy Moriarty), and his brother, Joey (Pesci).

Every aspect of this film was extremely well done. The black-and-white cinematography is perfect for establishing the boxing mood from the 1940’s and 1950’s. The entire cast, from top-to-bottom, does an outstanding job driving home one solid scene after another. The editing is perfect, the script is grade A material, and Scorsese does a fabulous job directing this picture. Especially good were the various boxing scenes, which had an edge of realism unlike that of any other boxing film I’ve seen.

So, was my colleague, Mr. ‘No Relation’ Ebert correct in his assertion that Raging Bull was the greatest film of the 1980’s? Honestly, it’s a very tough call to make. It might very well be the best film of that decade, and at worst, a strong case can be made in its favor. However, regardless of whether or not this film was tops in the 80’s, I strongly believe that this was the best boxing movie ever made. I also strongly believe that this was the best film that the trio of DeNiro, Pesci, and Scorsese were ever involved in; and that in and of itself speaks volumes about the quality of this motion picture.

This one easily gets four out of five ‘shrooms from me.


To read 'No Relation' Ebert's review of this film CLICK HERE

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Article posted on 13.02.2006

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