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Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro) is a raging bull—both in and out of the ring. The same violent and stubborn streak that makes him world middleweight champion also makes him a danger to those who love him, his brother Joey (Joe Pesci), wife Vicki (Cathy Moriarty) and ultimately himself.

The artistic peak of the Scorsese-De Niro partnership and the first truly great film of the 1980s, Raging Bull leaves the viewer punch drunk every time. The level of achievement is stupefying, from the awe-inspiring fight scenes to De Niro’s Method madness as the animalistic fighter who, over two decades, journeys from world beater to after-dinner speaker.

The high-contrast cinematography captures the 1940s like a period newsreel. Need proof? There’s one sneakily hidden among the DVD’s special features, showing the real Jake La Motta defending his title against Frenchman Laurent Dauthuille. It’s incredible to see just how well Scorsese nailed the fight choreography—right down to the detail of Dauthuille’s head bouncing off the ropes as he headed for the canvas. There’s not a brick out of place in Marty’s vintage New York, even the soundtrack feels like it was laid down on an old 78.

A 25-minute documentary on The Bronx Bull gives La Motta himself a chance to have his say. The old pug is clearly delighted with the notoriety—and legendary status—De Niro’s portrayal conferred. The actor himself cudda-beena contender, according to La Motta. While De Niro’s four-month binge, in which he gained 60-pounds to play La Motta in decline, is well documented, he also spent an entire year in training before shooting even began, racking up over a thousand rounds with the Bull so he would look the part in the ring. Jake also turns joker, regaling us with some of the groanworthy one liners that kept him in cigars through his nightclub years.

Thelma Schoonmaker, editor on almost all Scorsese’s movies, guides us through the technical aspects of the film, and her illustrations of how Scorsese created atmosphere in the ring fascinate. To reproduce the confusion of a fight La Motta lost to Sugar Ray Robinson, the director and cinematographer, Michael Chapman (who also lensed Taxi Driver) placed a fire in front of the camera and shot through the heat haze. Schoonmaker also comments on the freedom that De Niro and Pesci (giving an early runout to the firecracker character that would become his trademark) were given to improvise. Scorsese apparently saw their double act as a twisted version of Abbot and Costello or Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. All said and done, La Motta’s jokes are funnier.
Stuart Whitmore

Published: September 27, 2001

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You can buy it HERE - next day delivery within Australia


CAST: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty, Frank Vincent

DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese

RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: August 8, 2001

SPECIAL FEATURES: Widescreen; Theatrical trailer; Documentary "The Bronx Bull"; Jakes Jokes; Newsreel "Jake La Motta Defends Title"; Photo gallery. Audio: English 2.0 stereo. Subtitles: English; English for the hard of hearing

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