Raging Bull (1980), directed by Martin Scorsese is a really great film. Based on the real-life story of the up and down life of Jake LaMotta, the movie is a study in modern realism. Still, over the years the film has achieved “untouchable” status, where if you say it is overrated you might get the internet mob after you. Just because a film had a great director and stars the best actors of perhaps all time, it doesn’t mean it can’t suffer from nostalgic pump up to the point where it is acclaimed as the best film ever. Here are five reasons why the film Raging Bull is overrated.
The Old Neighborhood Had Plenty of “Jakes”
Yeah, the Bronx was chock full of them. Boxers who were on their way up or down the money ladder. Many like my dad, who did amateur fighting for extra cash, left the fight in the ring. Unfortunately, many others were Neanderthals acted just like Jake and routinely beat up on their wives. The guy who lived upstairs gave all the decent Italian-American men on the block a bad name. Those who grew up in the inner city already met that guy, and cowards like him are anything but special. The world of Raging Bull is novel to those who grew up on a farm in Kansas, but to city dwellers, he was anything but a hero, and nothing new.
Not One Really Likable Character
I know it’s comparing fiction to reality, but when Rocky goes into the ring, we, along with Adrian are rooting for him Rocky Balboa is the fighter with a heart. All of the characters in Raging Bull are one dimensional, except for perhaps Joe Pesci as Joey, who we can commiserate with as having to put up with having that creep for a brother. We hope that Jake gets his ass kicked. Vicki, her smart mouth aside, suffered from battered wife syndrome. Still, Vicki was hard to like or feel sorry for as she seemed to somehow enjoy Jake’s sick game but her motives are a mystery. We really never find out much about her–as she is portrayed as just a walking, talking body. The audience never connects with many characters, especially Joey’s wife who has to deal with Jake busting into her house like a deranged animal. This woman is also bullied so she doesn’t say much as women have a place in the film along with the other punching bags.
The Cinematography was Masterful But Too Much
Yes, Raging Bull contained exquisite shots and as it was filmed in black and white there it looks like a period piece. But too much of a good thing is too much, and all of that slow motion blood spray and bone crunching was over the top. Yeah, we get it–fighting is brutal and violent. The artistry made up for lack of characterization and no real surprises.
When Raging Bull first came out, everyone was talking about how Robert De Niro ate his way up to a dangerous body weight to play Jake as an older guy. He was one of the first actors to engage in this type of serious “method” acting. If any other actor would have played Jake, or if Di Nero would have opted for a fat suit, it would not have been such a hit. He carried the movie with just a few grunts and lots of obscenities. De Niro was the top heartthrob actor of the day, so he was the attraction.
Been Done Before
Marlon Brando already did that “Coulda Been a Contender” movie with On the Waterfront, and 1976 had already given us Rocky. So what if Raging Bull was “true”? Raging Bull is a great movie for what it is, with all the gritty realism and fabulous camera work, but many feel it does not deserve its place in the All-time Best Ever category.