There is a huge difference between other boxing movies like “Rocky” and “Cinderella Man“, and “Raging Bull“. While Rocky and James Braddock are shown to be entirely white characters, Raging Bull portrays Jake LaMotta as a failable human being. Somewhat like a Shakespearean character, with a mix of black and white, a grey character.
The movie opens with a tragic soliloquy of Jake’s fears, sexual anxiety and confusion, and from then on we are taken into the down the hill journey that is Jake’s life. We are introduced to him when he is almost at the peak of his career, and are shown how he is made to suffer and his life becomes a horrid mess.
He is a self made man who doesn’t want to take any favours from the mafia because he knows that they would come at a big price. However, his brother Joey, played brilliantly by Joe Pesci, convinces him to throw a match once to get a title shot. He does that and from then on, loses respect for himself. He weeps bitterly in the arms of his trainer after the fight. Though he gets his title shot, and also wins it, his fears turn more violent. He doesn’t trust his wife or his brother any more. He takes himself on a path of self destruction and ends up in a jail. The last scene is a poignant one with Jake reciting the famous lines from “On the Waterfront”. He blames his brother for making him throw the match that changes the course of his life. His life completes a circle from dizzying heights to near obscurity, where he has to do stand-up routine at shady bars.
It wasn’t him, Charley. It was you. You remember that night at the Garden you came down in my dressing room and you said, ‘Kid, this ain’t your night; we’re going for the price on Wilson?’ ‘remember that? ‘This ain’t your night?’ My night. I could’ve taken Wilson apart that night. So what happens? He gets a title shot outdoors in the ballpark, and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palookaville. I was never no good after that night, Charley. It was like a peak you reach, and then it’s downhill. It was you, Charley. You was my brother. You should’ve looked out for me a little bit. You should’ve looked out for me just a little bit. You should’ve taken care of me just a little bit instead o’ making me take them dives for the short-end money. You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am. Let’s face it. It was you, Charley. It was you, Charley.
Robert De Niro is brilliant as Jake and his acting is top notch. It doesn’t come as any surprise that he bagged the Oscar for this one. His physical transformation within the movie had been carefully manipulated by him. He gained around 60 pounds for second half of the movie when he plays the older Jake with a huge belly. Joe Pesci plays the part of his younger brother to perfection and the facial similarity they share add to the character. The direction by Martin Scorsese is top notch and everything is perfect, including the Italian accent. The black and white composition gives the movie an authentic era look. All in all, a wonderful movie. Must watch!!
So gimme a stage
Where this bull here can rage