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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 6.92%
Average: 9.43%
Pretty Bad: 0.63%
Total Crap: 1.26%

4 reviews, 135 user ratings

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Raging Bull
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by Jay Seaver

"I feel bad about not liking this much, but it truly doesn't do much for me."
3 stars

I don't like boxing. I can admire the dedication and effort it takes to be a good boxer, but it takes dedication and effort to do anything well, so why not expend it on learning how to do something nobler than beating another person unconscious? Although I'm certain that there are many big-hearted boxers, the sport comes across as a thug's activity, with the rampant corruption doing little to make things look better. So I guess it's fitting that Raging Bull is basically a movie about a thug.

It's a polished movie about a thug, no question. The black and white photography is unwaveringly excellent, the actors deliver fine performances, and everything that happens rings true, which isn't always a given even for a biography. But when you get right down to it, Jake La Motta is a big, dumb, petty, violent bruiser of a man, and as such men are wont to do, he squanders his success and winds up making those around him miserable. Where's the interest in that almost inevitable progression, other than the formidable craft of Martin Scorsese and his cast and crew? That's not trivial by any means, but they bring it to a story and a character that is interesting for little other than confirming a pessimistic view of human nature.

That character, Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro), is a middleweight fighter, and not bad at it. He's not the smartest, but he's of the breed that refuses to quit and refuses to sell out. That makes it hard for him to get fights in his native New York, but he'll deal with that. It makes life more difficult for his brother and manager Joey (Joe Pesci), who not only has to try to book Jake but also craves the acceptance of the community's powerful members, including the gangsters. He meets a girl, Vickie (Cathy Moriarty), who figures that the big ox has potential and eventually becomes his wife. His career will have its ups and downs until he finally wins the championship, gets fat and bloated, and falls far faster than he rose.

Fame, apparently, is as addictive as it is corrosive. The Jake LaMotta we initially meet isn't monstrous, and someone who just wants to do his thing without kowtowing to the mob can't be all bad. But as time goes by, he becomes angrier and more paranoid, and when his boxing career ends, he can't bear to be out of the spotlight, first buying a Florida nightclub at which he sings and does a peculiar stand-up act, then performing in progressively smaller and dingier clubs once he loses his own. It's an awful act, but what's LaMotta going to do after he's been famous? His ego simply won't allow him to fade back into anonymity.

At least it looks nice. Scorsese and cinematographer Michael Chapman shoot in crisp black and white, calling to mind the hard-boiled pictures of the movie's 1950s setting. It's a clean-looking picture, with the fights used like chapter breaks. Scorsese strives for, and achieves, clarity above all else in his storytelling. The boxing scenes are especially noteworthy, not just for the oft-noted trick of changing the size of the ring, but for how the camerawork switches between emulating how matches were filmed at the time (high, distant, stationary cameras) and a more modern, close-in style.

The performances are skilled, as well - it's relatively early in De Niro's and Pesci's careers, well before they descended into self-parody, and it's easy to see where their reputations came from. The characters they inhabit are seamless, the type that don't make big speeches and don't easily betray a better inner better nature with their eyes. Moriarty, in her film debut, also gives a strong performance, aging believably over the course of the film.

But, in the end, I just couldn't bring myself to care. Perhas it's just me with a blind spot where boxing and jerks are concerned, or maybe it's the script by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin. Whatever the reason, this movie that I've so-often seen praised as an all-time classic left me cold, at best a triumph of craft over soul.

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originally posted: 04/22/05 01:29:43
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User Comments

2/27/20 dc could be better 3 stars
12/17/18 Ajp wales Watch rocky instead. 3 stars
4/24/16 Ken Go see this film, if you haven't seen this. It's very excellent! 5 stars
5/18/15 stanley welles a solid, vigorous ringside drama featuring brilliant boxing sequences 5 stars
3/06/14 Justin R. A brutally raw masterpiece. Plus, I love "Rocky", as well. 5 stars
3/20/13 Daniel M. Any film fan who thinks this film is bad is a moron 5 stars
7/18/11 art RAGING BULL BURRIES rocky six ways to Sunday!!!! 5 stars
10/05/10 Dennis One of my top 5 or 10 films. De Niro and Scorsese rock! 5 stars
9/12/10 art THe BEST film OF 1980 as far as i'm concerned!,Forget rocky! 5 stars
6/11/10 Flathead King Raging Bull is a unique and intense film that packs an emotional wallop. 5 stars
3/25/10 Jeff I love both of those film, but if I had to pick one I love more, it's "Raging Bull". 5 stars
10/30/09 Omar Raging excellence. 5 stars
5/20/09 art RAGING BULL BURIES ROCKY! 5 stars
3/23/08 Philip Along with "Goodfellas", De Niro and Scorsese's best film. 5 stars
1/26/08 proper amateur film critic Outstanding drama. Scorsese's masterpiece 5 stars
12/14/07 davidbobo20 DeNiro at his best. 5 stars
10/15/07 fools♫gold raging uniqueness 5 stars
9/24/07 MP Bartley A beautifully shot close up of a cockroach is still a film about a cockroach. Meh. 3 stars
8/02/07 Quigley Amazing portrayal of a person you'd never want to know. Scorsese and De Niro are geniuses. 5 stars
2/01/07 Eric P. This and "Goodfellas" are the best movies ever created. 5 stars
1/31/07 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 3 stars
12/28/06 Agent Sands De Niro is authentically disturbing, entirely becoming his role, transcending the universe. 5 stars
12/22/06 Eric Phelps My #1 favorite movie of all-time. 5 stars
9/29/06 Josh Racine The best movie ever made. I'm so happy Robert De Niro deserved the Oscar for this. 5 stars
8/01/06 David Cohen Uncompromising drama, DeNiro and Pesci give the performances of their careers 5 stars
4/30/06 Joshua The best fuckin' movie ever. Whoever hates this, sucks dick. 5 stars
4/02/06 JRE incredible acting but the movie isn't that great 4 stars
3/31/06 kerry WOrst film ever.De Niro is a wife abuser and Scorcese is overrated 1 stars
11/18/05 John Dog Too excellent for words. 5 stars
10/21/05 Ben Awesome. 5 stars
10/16/05 Moctezuma Don't miss a single minute of this masterpiece 5 stars
10/07/05 Johnny Whoever says this movie is crap is a fag. 5 stars
9/23/05 orson wells my god you people are insane did we watch the same film. this was crapie o's 1 stars
9/22/05 Lance De Niro's amd Scorsese's best movie. 5 stars
6/22/05 Regis My favorite movie! 5 stars
6/13/05 Agent Sands One of the greatest movies ever made. Period. 100% perfect. 5 stars
6/10/05 Indrid Cold Boy, I must be way off base. I found it mostly gratuitous and forgettable. 3 stars
5/24/05 Carolyn Rathburn Wonderfully done 5 stars
5/22/05 Cham DeNiro's best performance. 5 stars
5/06/05 Regis De Niro's best. 5 stars
3/12/05 Mr. Slave The #1 best movie of the 1980s. If you film fans have not this, GO SEE IT! NOW! 5 stars
3/09/05 Jake Slave Best Movie of the 1980s. 5 stars
2/23/05 Colleen Goldrick a must see 5 stars
2/18/05 susee it was ragging for sure 5 stars
12/27/04 mjoc De Niro's greatest work. Best film of the 80s for sure. 5 stars
12/07/04 Kurt Cobain Definitely the best film made from the 80's, and there hasnt been a modern movie better yet 5 stars
12/06/04 Jimmy Kustes It's okay 3 stars
11/25/04 Tony The #1 best movie of the 1980s, without a doubt. 5 stars
10/23/04 UMER certainly one of the three best performances of all time-simply unbelievable 5 stars
10/13/04 jake great movie- one of the best ever 5 stars
9/26/04 Mel Gibson's Boyfriend DeNiro would have beaten Jesus Christ for the Oscar that year 5 stars
9/09/04 andrewm nop notch 5 stars
8/14/04 magaafi turned the crappsd boxer's story in2 a fantastic if not best eva movie!!! watch it!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/03/04 Evan The best film for the 80s 5 stars
6/25/04 Karen Stockdale Watch the fight sequences without wincing - impossible!! Sorcese and de Niro are geniuses 5 stars
5/15/04 Read it, Seen it, Done it Easily one of the best movies of the 80's! 5 stars
5/14/04 John what a blend of sensational acting, writing, editing and directing - yeah Scorsese's best! 5 stars
5/07/04 Daveman Better than Taxi Driver. Stands as Scorcese's greatest achievement of them all!!! 5 stars
4/26/04 The man with the plan Greatest Boxing film 5 stars
3/13/04 James Kustes Worth a look, one of those B&W films during the color era 5 stars
3/02/04 Moses "You talkin' to me?" Roth Wah.... 5 stars
2/08/04 Travis I am not an animal 5 stars
1/31/04 Jay Did you fuck my wife? 5 stars
1/24/04 CC No words.... 5 stars
1/23/04 Betty White De Niro gives a loud performance in this overlong Scorsese piece. 3 stars
10/30/03 Nasty_Gnorc Boring? that's nonsense!! 5 stars
9/29/03 Ida Thunk Who cares about these people? I didn't. Ultimately boring. 2 stars
9/23/03 john_cord The best movie. Evaire. 5 stars
8/03/03 Putski One of DeNiro's Best 4 stars
7/18/03 EZE one of deniros absolute best performances, GWB ur a fuckin idiot 5 stars
6/22/03 daniel iriarte One of the best films ever made, DeNiro is jake LaMotta, a gritty triumph... 5 stars
5/23/03 Ryan F. Mr. Scorses's best. A stunning biography. 5 stars
5/17/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back Mo'Fos!) Scorsese makes his craft look so easy, and De Niro gives THE performance of ANY lifetime!! 5 stars
5/15/03 joshx42 The best film of the 1980's. 5 stars
5/08/03 Doctor Jay One of the best movies of the 1980s!!! 5 stars
4/17/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik One of the top movies of the 80s. 5 stars
3/30/03 defranco71 A masterpiece, but it should have been the Best Picture Winner of 1980. 5 stars
3/22/03 GMan Like LaMotta, you can't keep this movie down. The same for pre-Cape Fear DeNiro. 5 stars
3/01/03 Hi there Anyone who thinks this movie is terrible, eat shit. A masterpiece. 5 stars
1/28/03 The Aussie Film Reviewer Explosive. DeNiro will never be better. 5 stars
1/04/03 rotten s. milk Robert De Niro's greatest role. If you think this movie's bad, you're a retard. 5 stars
1/01/03 Andy Todes first time i realized the power of brilliant editing 5 stars
12/28/02 Ally Gator Overdirected macho posturing about macho posturing. 3 stars
12/03/02 marchela great! 5 stars
12/02/02 Mike De Niro in his prime 5 stars
11/22/02 Wretch i love this movie 5 stars
11/22/02 dead good 5 stars
11/22/02 Dufus best film ever? 5 stars
8/14/02 conman Scorsese's best directing work. Great acting. 5 stars
8/13/02 Cannibus (Hey, Justin, Moriarty didn't win an Oscar.) The best film of the 1980s. Scorsese's best! A stunning, brilliant masterpiece. 5 stars
6/19/02 Monster W. Kung Nothing special, really. Good acting, but too much show-off and sorta boring. 3 stars
6/18/02 Mr Math Phenomenal. Pity to see DeNiro wasting his talent in crap nowadays. 5 stars
4/06/02 Justin Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Cathy Moriarty finally won an Oscar! 5 stars
3/14/02 Shams Huque DeNiro and Pesci are awesome. 5 stars
1/10/02 R.W. Welch De Niro's standout performance makes something special out of a not very special story. 4 stars
12/02/01 travis r. sorensen i can't believe this lost to ordinary people. scorsese was robbed of an oscar. 5 stars
10/20/01 Phoenix One of the best movies of the 80s. 5 stars
10/08/01 daniboy very impressive movie. awesome score 5 stars
9/16/01 Mr. Hat (formerly Joe Zappa) Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci should win ten Oscars and ten Golden Globes for this. 5 stars
9/09/01 Stranded on the Island Without a doubt, very good film. However I feel that it is overrated. 4 stars
9/08/01 spaceworm Great film, but just one question: Why? WHY? WHY?? WHY? WHY? 5 stars
8/20/01 Clarance Start to finish, an amazing film! 5 stars
8/09/01 E-Funk Hands-down the best Scorsese film. DeNiro's perfect, Pesci's perfect, the movie's perfect! 5 stars
8/05/01 Edwin Menguin Better than penguin sex 5 stars
7/10/01 Ted Halm the conflict between Pesci and DeNiro carries it thru to greatness 5 stars
7/08/01 Reini Urban Very intensive 5 stars
7/06/01 Craig Blanchard Why can't movies like this be made anymore??!! 5 stars
7/05/01 scott weber DeNiro in the jail cell is one of the best acted scenes in any movie ever! 5 stars
7/03/01 Harper Sloane Always a contender. A mighty film. 5 stars
7/02/01 Clarance GO SEE THIS INCREDIBLE MOVIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
6/11/01 SlipNSlide Don't shoot! Don't shoot! I like, I like. 5 stars
5/25/01 Padraic Coffey Anyone who doesn't think this is a masterpiece should be shot. 5 stars
3/09/01 Chris This is a classic film with a gripping and moving portray of boxer Jake LaMotta's life 5 stars
1/15/01 Action freak Scorsese is a god 5 stars
1/12/01 Skip Intense and ugly, but beautiful. 5 stars
1/01/01 Msitrab One of the best movies ever 5 stars
11/28/00 Cristopher Revilla Another great, self-redemption movie, de niro rocks in this one, a classic!!! 5 stars
11/23/00 A.K. Just the greatest movie of all time. Flawless acting and direction 5 stars
11/21/00 The Bill Head The best movie of the 80s. Scorsese's best! 5 stars
9/22/00 White Rabbit Come on Zall, this film is a masterpiece 5 stars
8/05/00 Elvisfan this lost Best Pic to Ordinary Fucking People? 5 stars
6/17/00 JC This film defines greatness in cinema 5 stars
6/03/00 PJ Greatest film of the 1980's, the greatest performance & direction in the history of acting 5 stars
5/05/00 matt DeNiro DEFINETLY deserved an oscar for his performance in this class true-life story. 5 stars
4/08/00 Bruce Just an amazing acheivement, Scrorsese should have won an oscar 5 stars
3/31/00 movieman The Robert Deniro gives one of the screens besrt acting performances 5 stars
2/19/00 tony s DeNiro gives a haunting performance. 5 stars
1/24/00 Casey Jarzabek THE BEST OF THE BEST 5 stars
1/21/00 vanga shows a young de niro at his best 4 stars
11/26/99 Matt Henderson The greatest film, period. About film, violence, humanity. Incredible. 5 stars
10/30/99 Bozo DeNiro's best; Moriarty beautiful; the whole thing is like a symphony 5 stars
10/25/99 russ the best boxing movie ever made, brutal yet compelling. See this at once! 5 stars
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  14-Nov-1980 (R)
  DVD: 08-Feb-2005

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