“Raging Bull” follows the life of a boxer that has severe jealousy, and paranoia issues. This could be related to head trauma, but it seems more of a personal problem. However, this doesn’t stop Jake from turning his amateur career into a professional boxing career. It even guides him towards success in the boxing ring.
The audience witnesses the conflicted protagonist Jake (played by Robert De Niro). On the one hand he is a great person, but when the jealousy and paranoia start to kick in he becomes a monster. He is violent towards his wife, and at a certain point the people around him don’t want to deal with him anymore. However, there are many moments during this film which I consider funny. It is not the fun kind of funny, but instead it is more dark, or rough. Joe Pesci, who plays Joey, knows how to deliver a funny yet crude line of dialogue. And it is this interaction between these two great actors that make this movie so great. I am not saying that without them “Raging Bull” would be bad because the directing, literally all of the shots, are also amazing. However without Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci it would have been a good movie experience at best.
Does that mean that the plot isn’t the greatest? Well, it is an interesting plot but nothing really special. It becomes special and amazing only because ‘how’ the story is told. And of course Martin Scorsese knows how to turn an OK-ish script into something very special. The black and white elements are just one example. If this film was shot in color then the entire tone of this movie would have drastically altered towards a more “Rocky” (1976) kind of experience. And because there is no color in this film we the audience will not focus too much on the very messy, and bloody details of all the different fights. It doesn’t become gory when the camera shot focuses on the blood that is dripping off the boxing ring ropes. One could make the argument that the violence becomes less violent because the color isn’t there, and therefore it feels less intense. This way we are more focused on the characters themselves and how they feel, not what they do.
Alternatively, one can perceive this entire movie as an artistic version of “Rocky” (1976) because it does everything better. This would almost automatically mean that it is less of a mainstream movie and more of a proper ‘film experience’. This might sound arrogant, but the main difference between “Rocky” (1976) and “Raging Bull” is that the protagonist in the latter film is more developed. Not developed as a person but developed as a film character. Because there was not one moment during the entire film that I thought that Jake La Motta was an unrealistic character. That is partially because of the wonderful acting, but mainly because of the dialogue, and actions. “Rocky” is like a cartoon character while Jake seems to be a real individual with real emotions, and a complex disorder of some sort.
But enough with all of these comparisons because “Raging Bull” is really its own thing. So what were the minor elements of this movie, or the things that I didn’t like? The fighting scenes were totally unrealistic to the point that I thought that this was done on purpose. If you ever have seen a Bruce Lee fighting choreography then you know that this was either really bad, or done on purpose to keep it light. The issue is that if this bad fighting choreography was done on purpose then it doesn’t combine well with the domestic violence storyline, especially not in 2021. Because it is making domestic violence seem less serious, or even funny at times. The latter is a bit of a stretch, but I think that they should have done real/decent fighting choreography.
Therefore, the only conclusion that I can come to is: “GO WATCH THIS MOVIE”. Because it shows real character development, and the strength of good actors, and an amazing director.
Directed by: Martin Scorsese. Writing Credits: Jake LaMotta (based on the book by) (as Jake La Motta) Joseph Carter (with) and Peter Savage (with) Paul Schrader (screenplay) and Mardik Martin (screenplay).