ďI remember those cheers. They still ring in my ears. And for years they'll remain in my thoughts. Cuz one night I took off my robe. And what'd I do, I forgot to wear shorts. I recall every fall, every hook, every jab, the worst way a guy could get rid of his flab. As you know, my life was a jab. Though I'd rather hear you cheer, when I delve into Shakespeare, "A Horse, a Horse, my Kingdom for a Horse." I haven't had a winner in six months . I know I'm no Olivier, but if he fought Sugar Ray, he would say, that the thing ain't the ring, it's the play. So gimme a stage, where this bull here can rage. And though I can fight, I'd much rather recite. That's entertainment. That's entertainment.Ē
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Labeled by many as the greatest movie of the 80ís, Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull is not just another boxing movie. Donít get me wrong -- it is the definitive boxing movie; with the best fight scenes ever put on film. Raging Bull is just so much more than your simple no brain boxing movie. Although some of the most memorable and damaging scenes come from inside of the ring, the other 95% of the film takes place outside the ring, but for Jake LaMotta everyone is an opponent (especially women), everything is worth fighting about, and he will always be the champ.
Based on the true man, Jake LaMotta, Raging Bull paints a more honest and unflinching portrait on sexual insecurity then any other movie ever made. After watching the film several times, I realized Scorsese wasnít interested in telling the tale of a fallen champ, but he was more interested in telling the story of a man who is plagued by one question: ďAre you f**king my wife?Ē Sure Jake La Motta was a great boxer, but as a person, he was a two time loser, and because of that, he lost everything. Like I have said, Raging Bull is a great boxing film, but the film would be just as compelling if say, Jake LaMotta worked as a plumber.
I guess one of the main reasons why Raging Bull works as well as it does is because of the fashion in which it is presented. This isnít a film that is trying to get you to say, ďOh poor Jake LaMotta, he really did get the short end of the stick.Ē Or, ďJake LaMotta was an as_h_le and I wish his wife would have cut off his Johnson.Ē No, the film isnít trying to make us feel any particular way. The film just wants to be honest -- if that means at the end of the day you hate Jake LaMotta, well then so be it. If you feel sorry for him, well good for you. The film wants you to be the judge, and it doesnít want to preach. Raging Bull just wants to show you what happened and how it happened. Because the film is presented in this fashion, I personally feel that the film leaves a more realistic emotion behind after watching it. Itís like you are watching a dear friend who is in a constant downward spiral. I know that my final reaction to the character is mixed. On one hand, I do feel bad for Jake. On the other hand, itís no oneís fault but his own. All you can do is learn from his mistakes. According to Entertainment Weekly after the real life Jake LaMotta saw the film, he said, ďWhen I saw the film I was upset. I kind of look bad in it. Then I realized it was true. Thatís the way it was. I was a no-good bastard.Ē
Although Raging Bull was praised unanimously by critics and audiences alike, it found itself losing the Best Picture Oscar to Robert Redfordís Ordinary People. Thankfully, Robert De Niro won best actor for his eye-opening role. Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty were both nominated for their supporting roles as well -- but neither won.
As Jake LaMotta, De Niro gives one of the greatest performances in the history of film -- and it isnít even his finest performance! De Niroís LaMotta could kick the sh*t out of Sylvester Stallone's Rocky and Will Smithís Ali. De Niro quite simply creates the most believable boxer, with the most amazing fight scenes, in the history of film. The reason for this realism is because both De Niro and Scorsese are perfectionists. De Niro prepared for the role by sparring with LaMotta for a full year. In fact, while training De Niro gave the real LaMotta some smashed teeth, and a cracked rib. He also broke two of Pesciís ribs. Scorsese created numerous film tricks to make the fight scenes in Raging Bull unique. Panes of glass are broken, blood and water packets are concealed, and the camera was brought into the ring. This makes for fight scenes that are just a little too close for comfort. One of the reasons why the film is in black and white is because itís so damn bloody.
You donít really realize the impact of De Niroís performance until the final act of the film. When LaMotta has finally lost everything, his wife, his brother, his fame, his money, and he breaks down in his jail cell, you realize that his self destruction is at last complete. Raging Bull isnít just a boxing movie, itís a film about a man who destroys himself because of his jealous rage. Itís that simple. Boy meets girl; boy gets girl; boy beats girl up; boy loses girl; boy looses everything. Thatís entertainment. Thatís entertainment.
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