the fresh films reviews

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Raging Bull (1980)

Directed by:
Martin Scorsese


Den rasende oksen

129 minutes

Produced by:
Irwin Winkler
Robert Chartoff

Written by (based on the book by Jake LaMotta):
Paul Schrader
Mardik Martin

Cast includes:

Jake LaMotta Robert De Niro
Joey LaMotta Joe Pesci
Vickie LaMotta Cathy Moriarty
Tommy Como Nicholas Colasanto
Lenora LaMotta Theresa Saldana -
Salvy Batts Frank Vincent
Irma LaMotta Lori Anne Flax -
Mario Mario Gallo -
Patsy Frank Adonis -



Crisp period cinematography in black and white effectively transports you back to 1940s New York City with its jazzy joints, kitchen table discussions, and large enclaves of Italian-Americans. The fourth teaming of director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro sees them venturing into the biography genre for a look at the life and times of former middleweight boxing champ Jake LaMotta. With the B&W cinematography and lack of original music, Scorsese's goal was clearly for LaMotta's story to come off as raw and gritty, while at the same time differentiating his film from the prizefighter subgenre's traditional rags-to-riches arc used notably in recent successes such as Rocky and The Champ. Despite these stylistic choices, Raging Bull is nevertheless a highly traditional biopic, but the direction is economical and the story at times engaging. The Scorsese/Schrader partnership was still able to flesh out and shoot crisp dialogue at this point. Not ingenious, not snappy, but it had a naturalness to it. And it elevated and was elevated by Scorsese's two main chummies, De Niro as LaMotta and Joe Pesci as LaMotta's brother Joey. So far, so good. But as the film progresses, its main impediment becomes more and more apparent: Jake LaMotta is a rather dull character and his story never becomes anything special. He's a jealous, common bully and bore with no discernable characteristics outside of his antics in the ring. And so when the movie finally ends, you may find that you're just as happy to be rid of him as his wife Vickie ultimately was.

Re-reviewed: Copyright 08.01.2024 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review: Copyright 02.05.1997 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang