Film Classics: Raging Bull

Since Roger Ebert’s passing late last week, I’ve given some thought to film and his influence on the art form as a critic. I always trusted Ebert’s reviews because his critiques were delivered without pretense and were nearly always justifiable. Over the weekend, like many times in the past, I relied on Ebert’s opinion and decided to watch a movie from his personal list of the 10 greatest films of all time – Raging Bull.

Shot in black and white, the appropriately titled biopic portrays middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta’s rise to the top of the boxing ranks and his subsequent self-destruction. What sets this film apart from movies such as Rocky, Million Dollar Baby, or The Fighter is that Raging Bull is a boxing film that essentially isn’t about boxing. The screenplay isn’t dedicated to the athlete’s rigorous training schedule or fighting strategy, but delves into the narrative of a tragic character both inside, and more frequently, outside the ring.

Roger Ebert was an early supporter of Martin Scorsese and Raging Bull is a stand out in the director’s incredibly rich filmography. Not to mention, this is Robert De Niro’s finest acting, which may only be second to his performance in Taxi Driver. Just like Ebert, I give Raging Bull two thumbs up. As for Joe Pesci’s shirt collars, I can’t say they are as well received.

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