Director Martin Scorsese managed to capture more than a glimmer of sadness in Raging Bull (1980); the decidedly unglamorous life and career of boxer Jake LaMotta. After an evocative bit of sparing in the ring, the film jolts its audience to LaMotta circa 1980 – a fat, undesirable and washed up nightclub performer preparing for his repertoire of one line witticisms.
In an era usually dedicated to the deification of sports figures, Scorsese gambled on a down beat movie shot almost entirely in B&W. As LaMotta, Robert DeNiro underwent a startling transformation – engaging in a rigid exercise regime to bulk up for the first half of the movie, then gaining forty plus pounds to portray his out of shape alter ego.
Virtually unstoppable in the ring, LaMotta behind the scene – his manic bouts with depression and fits of violence - these were honestly explored with the real LaMotta’s complicity and participation. For several scenes the former fisticuffs champion even instructed Scorsese to make the film more unflattering and violent, admitting to the director, “I was a bastard.”
Upon its release, Raging Bull was largely overlooked by audiences and critics. And although DeNiro took home the best actor Oscar for his masterful performance, it has taken the film nearly twenty-years to develop an appreciation worthy of its considerable artistry.
MGM Home Video presents a marvelous DVD of this new American classic. The B&W anamorphically enhanced widescreen image is quite stunning. The grainy texture of the fight sequences has been recaptured with a very film-like patina. The color sequences exhibit an accurate rendering of their forced dated characteristic. The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital and very nicely realized. Extras include a ‘making of’ featurette with behind the scenes footage of the real Jake LaMotta and Scorsese working through the development of DeNiro’s performance. Highly recommended!
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)