Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci
This movie seriously moved me. Now, I have seen plenty of movies in my short time on earth here, both good and bad, and I honestly need to say, even though it was made 5 years prior to my birth, that it IS an excellent movie. The movie starts off in a fight scene with De Niro and that preliminary fight scene gives a good indication of two things:
1). This movie was made in black and white, mostly to capture the 1940's era-feel (pretty subtle, and a good move in my opinion)
2). It shows the audience how the movie will go when it comes to the fighting, and it also (like above) very subtly sets the mood for the audience, with La Motta taking a serious beating and still keeping himself up.
Let's fast forward to a little about Jake La Motta in this film. Growing up in the tough neighborhood he did, he'd (evidently) become very used to fighting, and he did so very well. However, one of the "tragic flaws" he carried was the disrespect he held for everyone, and the almost psychotic paranoia he carried as it pertained to every small obstacle. These are the very OBVIOUS things that the audience can see, from slapping his wife around, to beating the hell out of his brother, to even his quiet, introverted demeanor. The one thing I think some people have to pay close attention to is his lack of respect for himself.
The very opening of this film shows a heavyset La Motta talking about entertainment, referring to his then-shaky career as a standup comedian. He has a rather large belly, and he does a short skit as a practice before leaving to do his routine.
Rewind back about 20 years now, and we see a youthful, handsome (albeit battered) Jake La Motta taking punch-after-punch-after-punch in the corner poles of the boxing ring. At first viewing, this may seem normal as the original "rope-a-dope" trick that many boxers have used to exhaust the stamina of their opponents. In here, this is Jake La Motta's only real feeling of living. It exposes the darker, sadomasochistic side of himself even better near the end. There is a scene in which he pours ice-cold water on a raging erection after making out with his attractive wife (Cathy Moriarty as Vickie) because he feels he cannot be excited before the match. Now, for some male types, that may seem an acceptable remedy, but he is actually groaning in a half-pained, half-pleasured way as he shakes his penis around in the freezing cold liquid.
This same sadomasochistic side of himself manifests itself even more further in the film in a particular scene where he provokes his brother into almost brutally and repeatedly punching him right in the middle of the face. Jake doesn't seem to mind the fact that his brother's punching him in the face and actually punches back to anger his brother into hitting him harder. It is at this point that he begins to bleed after wounds from the previous fight are opening up. Now, you who are reading this may say, "Where is this sadistic side you keep mentioning, you stupid gently caress?" Well, read on...
Said sadistic side seems to snowball into a few things, mainly centered around his obsession with his wife. He becomes violently possessive with her, even beats her around. The real shocker comes when an incident involving his wife in which his brother also became involved (won't spoil it, but he doesn't gently caress her) comes back to Joey La Motta (played by Joe Pesci). In this scene, Jake goes on his usual paranoia-stricken tirade and demands an answer from him regarding the incident earlier on. Joey, covering for Jake's wife (in fear of her safety) says, "it's done with, forget about it, it's over." This then escalates into the usual wife-beater routine of "Where did you go? Huh? Were you with a guy? What was his name? Did you gently caress him?" and violence commences.
...This one is a little different. The accused afternoon-delight is no more than Jake's own brother, and Joey decides to not even answer the question as to whether he had sex with his wife. Joey throws around some absolutely hilarious comments (though they're true) and storms off. Jake walks back to his wife in the bedroom, accuses her, and gets pretty angry. Anyways, she avoids him and hides. He pursues her into a bathroom and then proceeds to slap her around. She finally comes out and says something along the lines of "YES, I hosed YOUR BROTHER AND ALL YOUR FRIENDS. I EVEN SUCKED HIS COCK!" This of course can not be seen by La Motta (if you think about it, him being a raging bull and these comments being a red flag) as any attempt at making him see how foolish he is, and it goes from bad to worse. Go forward a little and he is at his brother's house, beating the stuffing out of him. He never hit his wife with a closed fist (in this film) up until this point, when he cold-cocked her and laid her out flat on the floor, right on top of his brother's unconscious body. A little character exposure happens here as his wife returns and attempts to pack her bags to leave. Jake successfully dissuades her and (as a first) admits he is not well (paraphrasing).
Now, this is where the climax of the film actually is about to hit. Recently in the film, Jake had fought Sugar Ray Robinson a handful of rounds and had triumphed. He beats the crap out of him, as usual... Until he stops. Something snaps in Jake's head, and he lets off of him. He's an almost tangible distance away from winning the match, when he beckons Sugar Ray to hit him again. Sugar Ray hesitates, and hits him a few times with punches that his brother Joey could throw better. This of course makes Jake taunt him a little... And then Jake gets it. Sugar Ray unleashes the most horrific force, full-blast on Jake's face, to the point where he is not even recognizable. Blood is literally dripping by the cup-full out of his mouth, his ears, his nose, ALL OVER onto his clothing, and finally pools underneath him. The one thing that shocks most people about it (and the broadcaster helps emphasize this) is the fact that Jake is still standing. His eyelids are so puffed up from the beating (by this point he doesn't even look like Jake anymore) that he can not see.
However, he fumbles his way over to Sugar Ray Robinson (as he's being crowned the victor by a Technical Knock-out) and says to him "Hey, Sugar Ray! You never got me down. You NEVER got me down." He cracks a bloody smile to him and is escorted away. He holds a certain air of respect for Sugar Ray throughout the whole movie, but in his own eyes, Jake's ability to take such a tremendous beating makes the middleweight champion belt a prize akin to that found in a box of cracker-jacks.
It is this ultimate personal victory/loss, however, that ends Jake's career, and after that, it is all downhill from there.
Back to the late 1950's to 1964. We see Jake, seemingly happy with his wife and children, talking in an interview. He is visibly obese, and has a nice house, nice car, and plenty of alcohol (which didn't help him either). We see an almost content, happy man who is proud of where he went in life. This however, is a mere facade as we see him flip perpetually from his usual self-destructive character to the charming ex-boxer they all loved. It trails him back to his club bearing the same name as himself, where he serves (obliviously) two minors alcohol. The next morning, the District Attorney is revoking his license and he later is sent to jail. He refuses cooperate and ends up in solitary, where he goes absolutely berserk (raging bull). He punches the walls, headbutts them, and afterwards he laments about his ruined life and how he had alienated himself from those he loved.
The movie closes with his marriage finally over, and he is now almost completely insane. It ends with himself talking to his mirror image and reminiscing with himself about Charlie, and how he should've been there.
It then cuts to a New Testament quote, which I can't say had enough bearing on the plot of the film with the exception of Jake's realization of who he was, in that desolate solitary cell.
"All I know is, I was blind, and now I can see."
Now, there are MANY parts of this film I omitted to help you savor the experience, but that is a synopsis of the plot.
What really gripped me about this movie is how nitty-gritty it really is. Spare none at all pertaining to language, or the intensity of the violence. Thanks to the then fairly-new methods of slowing frames down, there are many detailed scenes of face-maimings that would make Angelface from Fight Club's look like a knee-scrape (even the uncut version) from a PG-rated Disney family movie (of which there is nothing inherently wrong with). There is not really a big emphasis on death at all in this movie, but on the self-destructive nature of many celebrity athletes. In my opinion, boxing, one of MY favorite sports, requires a rather random abstract personality, and some very select qualities that don't require high intelligence. It only requires a certain outlook on life, something along the lines of "If I lose one finger, gently caress it, I still have 9 left and 10 toes." It is a dangerous life to live. But it is better than not living at all.
I have to say I admire those people who put themselves in that kind of danger, and I believe to them it is not about winning or losing necessarily, but about proving they can hack it to themselves even. Yes, the grandiose images they display after turning a 180 pound adult into a wad of hamburger may be misleading, but, especially in this movie, it seems to be more personal gratification, to such an extent that even natural biological impulses such as sexual activities, can not even BEGIN to climb up the first rung of the ladder (which was implied quite a few paragraphs ago).
I have digressed enough about the plot to keep the webmasters busy for weeks trying to read and/or erase this thread. Let's see the acting and directing.
There could have been no better role for an actor than Robert De Niro's in this. From the first scene his face reflects the image of the self-destructive La Motta, the essential raging bull of the boxing scene. His eyes are laden with the look of a man who is built of something harder and stronger than steel. He consistently sticks to the true character of Jake throughout the entire movie, and there is no room for mediocrity in his agenda. Joe Pesci is also wonderful in this movie as Jake's brother Joey. Him and De Niro make an excellent duo in ANY film, and it helps that they've known each other for a long time as well. He really fits the bill portraying Jake's down-to-earth yet loving and loyal brother.
Cathy Moriarty, in her debut role, plays Jake's wife Vickie. She did rather well for her debut role, and a critical one at that. Cathy Moriarty also (strangely enough) starred in "Analyze That" opposite Robert De Niro. She earned her fame she now holds thanks to her role in this movie.
I honestly can't say I know enough about Martin Scorsese, as I am not normally a big film buff (I love movies, but never get into interviews). However, every subtle detail handled in this movie in tandem with the screenplay writer was the binding agent, so to speak, that held this movie together. Obviously, a movie will go absolutely nowhere (or underground if you directed "Gigli," which still became famous because it sucked so much) without a director, and the "behind-the-scenes" effort they put into this movie, from the gripping scenes of cuts opening on Jake's face and spewing forth blood in slow motion, to the consistent pace of the movie, is something that is not rivaled easily.
If I thought they'd ever read this, I'd say they should give themselves a pat on the back, well hell, what they deserve would go beyond a pat on the back for their effort.
I can't say I found too many flaws in this movie mainly because it WAS a true story, my only real bitch about this movie was the quality of the medium it was on, and the obese Robert De Niro gag near the end. Even the latter I wouldn't mind so much, were it not for the fact that he does not closely resemble that today (see his newer movies).
All in all, I'd absolutely recommend watching this movie... That is, if you don't mind violence.
PROS: Much exposition and good character development; very moving and compelling.
CONS: Black and White, very VERY graphic , not recommended for young children.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0081398/
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