Robert De Niro……….Jake La Motta
Cathy Moriarty……….Vickie La Motta
Joe Pesci……….Joey La Motta
Frank Vincent……….Salvy Batts
Nicholas Colasanto……….Tommy Como
Theresa Saldana……….Lenore La Motta
Lori Anne Flax……….Irma
Charles Scorsese……….Charlie (man at table with Como)
Don Dunphy……….Himself/Radio Announcer (Dauthuille Fight)
Bill Hanrahan……….Eddie Eagan
Rita Bennett……….Emma (Miss 48s)
It has been called one of the best, if not the best, movie of the 1980s. It is the movie that launched the acting career of Joe Pesci and earned Robert De Niro his second Academy Award. At its’ heart, it is arguably the best boxing film ever made.
Raging Bull is the story of former world middleweight champion Jake La Motta from the perspective of the champ. We see him from right before the peak of his career to its’ zenith, but this isn’t a movie about boxing. It’s about the descent of a hero from his glory days.
De Niro is the “Bronx Bull” Jake La Motta, a man whose life is defined in two emotions: paranoia and rage. He is angry at the world, and this anger is what drives him to the top of the boxing world. But his anger isn’t just directed towards his opponents, as he regularly beats up both of his wives (Lenore, whom he divorced and is played by Theresa Saldana, and Vickie, the second wife played by Cathy Moriarty) and his younger brother Joey (Pesci).
As he progresses through the years in the movie, La Motta becomes increasingly possessive of Vickie as his boxing career peaks and then crashes down. His paranoia over his wife drives him to do many things that he later regrets in life.
Filmed in black and white, the movie’s look helps to fuel the fires that stoke Jake’s self-destructive behavior. Everything in Jake’s life he boils down in to one of two things: those that are for him and those that are against him. While this rage and paranoia works for him when he is at the top of his boxing career it also is the thing that brings him to his lowest point as well.
The beauty of the film is its’ attention to detail. De Niro looks and fights like La Motta did, with many of La Motta’s signature knockouts featured in the film looking identical to the actual event. Scorsese’s attention to detail is exquisite as everything in the film, even the tiniest detail, looks like it would’ve for the time period.
The look of the film isn’t the movie’s strength, though. It is from De Niro. Required to carry the movie on his back, De Niro brings a performance that few in cinematic history can match.
As the three different eras of La Motta, he has essentially three different characters to play. He has to play young Jake, the boxer waiting for his shot at the world title. He has to play over the hill Jake, a fighter trying to hang on and still prove that he can fight. Finishing this off is old fat Jake, trying to adjust to life as a sports personality and not as an athlete. He succeeds with flying colors, bringing the three different versions of the same angry, paranoid man to life.
De Niro’s La Motta is at times pathetic and other times frightening, and sometimes both. What is truly frightening about this movie is the way in which De Niro and Scorsese stylize La Motta’s fights. They are brutal, bloody and shocking more than 20 years after it was released, and yet at the same time it’s’ brutality at it’s’ most beautiful. De Niro embodies La Motta’s ability to almost atone for his sins with his work in the ring, and Scorsese captures it vividly. His use of black and white is spectacular, helping to define the movie and the fights.
It is a roller coaster ride of a movie, and in the end La Motta is left with no one to blame but himself for everything that has gone wrong in his life.
A gorgeous transfer, looking spectacular on its latest DVD release. Black and white is a medium that doesn’t tend to hold up over time, and they have taken the original footage and definitely cleaned it up in spades. The picture looks sharper and more defined than a lot of the color film I’ve seen.
Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, nothing near as good for any other language though. Every punch thrown, all of the attention to detail put into the audio in the original theatrical release; it sounds solid. Every landed punch, every little sound comes in crystal clear.
We are given a second disc full of extras that are a real treat.
The first disc has on it:
–Commentary by Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker
–Commentary by director of photography Michael Chapman and producers Irwin Winkler, Robbie Robertson (music), Robert Chartoff, actress Theresa Saldana, actor John Turturro, and supervising editor Frank Warner (sound effects)
–Commentary by writers Mardik Martin and Paul Schrader, boxer-author Jake LaMotta, and LaMotta’s nephew Jason Lustig
Not the typical DVD stuff on the first, to be honest. Everyone associated, involved or who helped make the movie in some major way (besides De Niro and Pesci) all give their tidbits and comments about the movie. Worth it on one hand, but the treat, though, is the second disc. It is almost worth the cost of the DVD itself the amount of goodies you get.
“Raging Bull: Before the Fight”: documentary on the writing, casting, and preproduction of the film
Everything they did to get the movie made and how it all came togethor before they started shooting. Its’ a fascinating look at what it took to get a movie of this magnitude togethor. Scorsese gives you the reasons why he chose to film it in black and white, justifying to the studio on making a boxing movie when it was a year of many boxing movies, De Niro and Pesci give you an insight on to how Pesci and others got cast into the movie.
“Raging Bull: Inside the Ring”: in-depth look at the choreography and the shooting of the fight scenes
All the information from De Niro’s training regime to camera angles, if you ever wanted to know how every single odd and end about how they made the fight sequences in the movie than you have it at your fingertips.
“Raging Bull: Outside the Ring”: Behind-the-scenes stories
A feature on the little things that went into making the movie that aren’t generally well known.
“Raging Bull: After the Fight”: feature on the sound design, music, and impact of the film.
This is a combination of the long term impact of the movie and how they designed the way it sounded. From little tidbits on how they got the punches to sound the way they did to the type of ‘feel’ Scorsese wanted to each fight, it’s a glimpse at more of the feel of the movie than anything else.
“The Bronx Bull”: making-of documentary
Doesn’t cover much newer ground than all of the information prior, but it adds more of a timeline perspective on all of the prior information. It gives you a place for everything and how it came togethor by the end.
“De Niro vs. LaMotta”: shot-by-shot comparison of De Niro and LaMotta in the ring
A quick look at just how well De Niro captured LaMotta’s fighting style, walk, and how the movie reflects the real life that inspired it.
Newsreel footage of the real LaMotta
Hard to find video of LaMotta from his fighting career.
Original theatrical trailer
Basically, they provide everything you’d want to know about the movie from beginning to end – from how they made it, how they thought of it and all things in between. It’s fascinating as they have gotten all of the principles to talk in depth about the film 20 years after the fact. And it’s not just trite ‘everything was wonderful’ sort of vignettes that populate some DVD releases. Its’ an honest, refreshing and analytic look at a classic of cinematic history that goes far beyond a typical special edition release.