I’d heard of the film Raging Bull, knowing that it was critically acclaimed, it starred a young Bobby DeNiro, and it was about a boxer. I’d seen a few clips from the film, but I’d never really known much about it. I was surprised to find out that it was based on a true story – not just a true story but on the main character’s autobiography.
This is another film (one of many in the AFI top 100) that is in the category of movies about a tragic male lead. Movies like this feature someone who has multiple flaws, in this case it is the famous boxer’s pride and paranoia. The story is a sad one, about a guy who never really found any sense of contentment. He alienated his brother, beat his wife, and took the fall multiple times due to pressure from power the be.
The film was shot in black and white even though it was released in 1980. While not unheard of, it’s rare enough that you have to sit up and take notice of anyone who chooses to do it when the option for color is standard. The cinematography is impressive to say the least, with one of the most famous push-pull shots in cinema history during one of the fight scenes.
The film is never what I would describe as “entertaining” or “enjoyable” but it is well acted and apparently truthful. I would also put it in a category as “these people just need Jesus.” I know it’s boring and cliché of me to say, but the people in the story would all have had much more easy, enjoyable lives – albeit more boring ones – if they’d submitted their lives to Christ – it’s not the first time I’ve said that about a film and it won’t be the last.
DeNiro’s performance is the most impressive part of the film – he plays a character through multiple life stages which is always challenging, and always powerful when a single actor can successfully play those different season of life. The details of the plot are mostly forgettable and the movie’s black and white color scheme makes it all tend to blend together. Having said that, there’s no doubt that it’s an impressive feat.