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Raging Bull (4K reissue)


Stars: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci, Burt Young, Theresa Saldana, Nicholas Colasanto, Frank Vincent

Director: Martin Scorsese

The life and times of short-fused boxing brawler Jake La Motta, who rises to the top in the world middleweight division, all the while inevitably embarking on a violent path to self-destruction.

The boxing sequences themselves occupy only some 12 minutes, but they rank among the most realistic and painful ever put on film; one appreciates the fact that Scorsese chose to film this searing if sometimes tough-to-watch account of La Motta's rage-filled life in black and white. That helps the dramatic scenes carry an emotional power and impact far in excess of the usual Hollywood biopic conventions.

No, this movie is truly adult, both in its frank language, and in its characteristics and narrative and, like its central character, pulls no punches. The result is an almost horrifying compulsion throughout.

De Niro, who went so far for his art as to gain 60 pounds for the role for scenes where LaMotta is on the inevitable way down, gives a dedicated performance that was rewarded with an Oscar. Moriarty, as his much-beaten wife, is no less impressive. And you'll rock with every punch in the boxing scenes.

Only the sharpest of eyes here will spot a very young John Turturro, as a man at one of the tables in Webster Hall. It was his first film appearance.

David Quinlan

USA 1980. UK Distributor: Park Circus (originally United Artists). Black and white.
129 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 11 Apr 2023