Raging Bull: 30th Anniversary Blu-ray Review
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
- Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
- Region: A
- Rating: R
- Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
- Studio: MGM
- Blu-ray Release Date: January 11, 2011
- List Price: $29.99
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
Hollywood has harbored a fascination with professional boxers, both real and fictional, from 1931′s The Champ with Wallace Beery to Mark Wahlberg’s 2010 portrayal of Irish Micky Ward (The Fighter). Along the way, the silver screen paid homage to Jake La Motta, one of the supreme ring warriors of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Viewing this film, I recalled the time-honored dramatic principle of hubris bringing down the play’s hero,i.e., pride goeth before a fall. Martin Scorsese creates a film account of La Motta’s gradual ascent from street fighter to middle weight champion and rapid descent to becoming a lost soul. There are so many moments in Raging Bull that led to its eight academy award nominations, I am astonished to this day that the film only won two. For those who cringe at cinematic violence, this picture will definitely not be for you. The boxing sequences are the most authentic ever captured for the screen. Forget about “Rocky” or “Cinderella Man,” this is the real deal. De Niro trained with La Motta himself for this film and his boxing moves are simply amazing. The supporting cast is also beyond reproach. Joe Pesci as La Motta’s brother establishes the persona that has since carried him through a distinguished but type cast film career. The real discovery of Raging Bull is ingenue Cathy Moriarty who was 20 years old at the time of its filming. She brings an incandescent, sexually smoldering presence which infuses every scene that she inhabits. All of the supporting roles are tailor made and add to the authenticity of the story being told.
Released in 1980, this is a throw-back film noir with a deliberately grainy screen texture. While true to the original theatrical release, I really wished that the images, especially the boxing close-up shots had been somewhat crisper. Surely opinions will be divided over this aspect of the film. The occasionally murky cinematography will probably appeal more to traditional film goers than to movie newcomers. Most of the camera work is close, very close, and this gives the overall impression of immediacy and intimacy, drawing viewers into the essence of the characters. The ring sequences, which are surprisingly brief, feature a wide variety of filming techniques from the smoke-infused rematch with Ray Robinson to the literally in-your-face beat down of Tony Janiro.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is crisp and stays mostly upfront with little if any perceptible surround effects. Scorsese’s fondness for classical music adds a surreal atmosphere to the boxing scenes with cuts from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, as authentic as Italian operatic music gets. Dialogue is clearly captured and idiomatic in a classically Bronx style of speech.
This commemorative 30th anniversary edition is chock full of extras. A standard definition DVD is included. Several commentaries are provided by director Scorsese, film editor Schoonmaker and other cast and crew members. Four new featurettes are included involving Scorsese and De Niro, Scorsese alone, and the real Jake La Motta. There is also a 4-part full length documentary — Raging Bull: Fight Night — that is a revealing look into boxing and a newsreel covering a La Motta title defense.
The Definitive Word
Raging Bull is less a classic boxing movie than it is an in depth study of the diverse characters that populate the demimonde of professional prize fighting. While not a note-for-note biography, Scorsese has crafted a masterpiece with an authenticity that few, if any, cinematic treatments of a professional boxer have ever displayed. The cast which included newcomers Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty simply could not be better. Of all of De Niro’s notable roles, it is doubtful that he got into the skin of any one more intensely than that of Jake La Motta. Voted the top film of the 1980’s, this film has aged extremely well and deserves its place in the cinematic pantheon.
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