Movie Review: No 90. Raging Bull

Movie Review: No 90. Raging Bull

I’m getting towards the end of the imdb Top 100 list now… and it’s just as well because, even though I tried not to, I’ve still managed to leave a lot of the dodgy ones till last.

Now, before I start I should probably begin with a warning. There are 4 movies directed by Scorsese in the Top 100 and I’ve already watched all the others and given them the following ratings:

  • Goodfellas (7 pumpkins)
  • Taxi Driver (5 pumpkins)
  • The Departed (6 pumpkins)

To many, these ratings would be the highest form of sacrilege. To me, it’s what I like to call generosity. Generosity of the highest order to the man I like to refer to as “Snoresese“.

Raging Bull is exactly like every other Snorsese film, which comes as great news to fans and not-so-great news to me. In fact, just four years after releasing ‘Taxi Driver’, I’m not even sure why he bothered with ‘Raging Bull’. It may as well be the exact same movie. Seriously. Just replace the steering wheel with a pair of boxing gloves and you’re all set. Apparently Scorsese himself recognised that he was being truly unoriginal, because he intentionally filmed in black and white just to avoid it being “just another boxing movie like Rocky”. Even the film’s most famous quote was ripped straight out of ‘On the Waterfront’:

I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am.

Jam a forced moral in at the end and you’ve got a real piece of work. Even screenwriter Paul Schrader disagreed with Scorsese on this point so at least I know I’m not alone:

I had no idea it was going to be there, and when I saw it I was absolutely baffled. I don’t think it’s true of La Motta either in real life or in the movie; I think he’s the same dumb lug at the end as at the beginning, and I think Marty is just imposing salvation on his subject by fiat. I’ve never really got from him a terribly credible reason for why he did it; he just seemed to feel that it was right.

Before I get too worked up, however, I have to remember the plea from friend and Top 30 Countdown challenger, Dave. Despite sharing a very similar sense of humour, Dave and I have what can only be described as the exact opposite taste in movies. Dave has politely requested that I do the following in this review:

Try for pros as well as your cons. There are always pros. I mean, it’s bloody Scorsese and I shouldn’t even have to mention cons. But yep.

So, in the spirit of good-sportsmanship, I will do my best to find and list the pros in this film:

  • It is based on a true story. I love true stories!
  • If ‘All About Eve‘ was a doco on PMS then ‘Raging Bull’ is a doco on testosterone. That’s kinda entertaining I guess.
  • It gave an interesting depiction of what I might enjoy when I make it courtside (or ringside) at Madison Square Garden. In other words, a big face-full of a sportsman’s blood, sweat and tears.
  • One of my favourite comedy’s of all time is ‘Liar Liar’ and one particular scene of La Motta’s self-flagellation would rival Jim Carrey’s ‘Liar Liar’ effort any day.
  • If you like Seinfeld you might enjoy De Niro’s ‘Kramer’ hair and Joe Pesci’s ‘George Costanza’ impersonation 😛
  • Robert De Niro put on 27 kgs to play LaMotta. That’s pretty impressive. (Renee Zellweger managed only about half that to play Bridget Jones).

Honestly, the best part about this film was that it showed the story of a relative failure. I haven’t seen a protagonist that unlikable since ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’ (which, coincidentally, was released the same year. 1980 must have been the year of the big fat jerk!)

So, in the interests of presenting a 100% balanced view of the movie, I suppose I better give it the most exactly balanced rating possible: 5 pumpkins.

Have you seen ‘Raging Bull’? Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments below.

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