182: Raging Bull
Raging Bull (R) - 1980 - Runtime: 129 minutes.
Starring: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci
Director: Martin Scorsese
This was on my classic list and I don't know what compelled me to pick this up rather than some other classics on my list. Maybe it was Scorsese or the boxing theme (I picked up the documentary Tyson - review coming later) that I wanted to have over the weekend. But I really don't like boxing. I just think it's quite boring. I have a level of respect for the physicality and mentality it takes to be a boxer, it's just dull because I can't quantify/translate the scoring that goes into determining a winner when there's no KO. I'm a team-sports kinda guy.
But this movie started out particularly slow for me and I was ready to just write this movie off as another fall-from-grace about a self-destructive man who can't get it together in real life even though he's achieved super stardom professionally. The fighting scenes were enough to get me through the first hour - they're shot so real and visceral you do feel every punch thrown and how damn bloody and physical this sport is. They're great sequences and the black and white only hammered home how stark and cold these tête-à-tête battles are.
But something about Joe Pesci (who knew?!?) and his performance that turned things around for me. When Jake confronts his brother about sleeping with his wife, Pesci gives an utterly unexpected and brilliant performance during that scene. I don't know what it was, but I just became fascinated by the unraveling of Jake La Motta outside the ring after that. Even though I knew where the story was going, I got lost in it. What I found even more fascinating was that Joe Pesci was pretty much a failed actor before this movie and was running a restaurant when Scorsese called him up to put him in the movie. His Oscar nomination is deserving, more so than De Niro, even though De Niro gives an absolute stunning performance. It's funny that Pesci would go on to play mostly bad guys in movies - because his character is the "good guy" in this one.
The movie is definitely worth seeing for the boxing scenes alone. The angles and close-ups are unforgiving and it felt very real. As for the story, it's typical, nothing extraordinary, but the performances are what really stands out. Like I said, Pesci, man, Pesci.