Saturday, 12 May 2012
Raging Bull (1980) - ★★½
Robert DeNiro plays a spouse abusing, paranoid control freak Jake LaMotta. He's one of the best middleweight boxers of his time and in many scenes destroys his opponents by breaking their nose, opening their foreheads and knocking out teeth. Shot in excellent black and white, the sweat, blood and camera flashing of the fighting is brutally beautiful. DeNiro was nothing short of outstanding in his portrayal, this arguably being his greatest acting achievement; having won Best Actor for Raging Bull in 1980.
Joe Pesci played LaMotta's brother/manager Joey; also a spouse abusing paranoid man but not quite as inhumane as his brother. This film needed a character such as Pesci to play Joey because he commanded such screen presence. He provided the little entertainment that this film entailed. Cathy Moriarty played Vicki, Jake's wife. She at first put up with his abusive ways, but then grew to hate and antagonize Jake. She was reckless and had no emotion projected through her voice except anger which makes it hard to find sympathy for the girl.
As a whole, Raging Bull had all the elements of a masterpiece of cinema. It is a biopic with great acting, cinematography and many memorable scenes. What I couldn't understand was how come it couldn't suck me into the story of Jake LaMotta. I found I just didn't care about the characters. None of them were interesting enough to make me want to pay attention. In the end, DeNiro quotes Marlon Brando's masterpiece, On The Waterfront. "You don't understand I coulda had class, I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am."
It was in hearing this quote that I realized that THAT is Raging Bull was missing. What it needed was something memorable besides brutal fight scenes and acting. There was no good moral to the story. Nothing to teach the audiences after they saw the film. Basically it was just Jake LaMotta fighting. Fighting with everyone around him. In the end he landed on his feet. The end. There's nothing inspiring, nothing memorable. It fell flat and lacked a purpose. It seemed like a film that was made for the heck of it. When Raging Bull lost Best Picture to Robert Redford's Ordinary People, it was seen as one of the biggest upsets in Academy Awards history. I for one absolutely agree with the decision to award Best Picture to Ordinary People, because it had meaning and purpose behind it, whereas Raging Bull did not.