Any Martin Scorsese film on Blu Ray is a reason to jump for joy when it shows up in your mailbox. Being able to put into words in a review my appreciation of this film and the work of director Martin Scorsese will not be an easy task.
Jake La Motta was a middleweight fighter of the 1940s and ’50s whose success in the ring was offset by his mercurial personality and tendency toward paranoia.
Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro), as depicted in this film, is not a perfect man or perfect athlete. Rather, Jake is shown to be a man obsessed with revenge and mistrust of those surrounding him. He is a cruel man who pushes away everyone that tries to love him.
But somehow, due to the skill and talent of Scorsese and De Niro, you find yourself caring about this seemingly monstrous man.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
The film opens and the audience sees a bloated and older Jake (Robert De Niro) preparing himself for another seedy nightclub performance. We are soon immersed in the journey that Jake took from champion fighter to the broken man we see now.
In the early 40’s, La Motta was showing real promise as a middleweight fighter. Helped by his brother Joey (Joe Pesci), the two were determined to take LaMotta’s natural talent and some mafia connections (Frank Vincent) all the way to the top.
The trajectory is changed by a twist of fate: Jake sees a beautiful young girl in a pool one day (Cathy Moriarty) and is determined to make her his own. Well, despite the fact that he is already married. He pursues this girl, Vickie, and it isn’t long before he is divorced and married to her.
While Jake’s triumphs in the ring, in particular Sugar Ray Robinson in 1943 should make him feel on top of the world, he is racked with paranoia that his beautiful wife is cheating on him with other men. His brother tells him he must get control of his jealous or rage or it will take him off of his path to the championship. Despite having some troubles outside of the ring, he wins the middleweight championship in 1949.
It is at this point in his life that La Motta’s course turns downward. He accuses everyone, including his brother, of sleeping with his wife. He is accused of “throwing a fight”. His career hits the skids. His personal life: it isn’t any better. By the late 50’s, he takes Vickie and the kids and heads to Miami, Florida to start all over.
I cannot stress enough how watching La Motta’s life how hard it is to find any sympathy for him. However, you tell me that in the last minutes of the film, if you don’t have a tear running down your cheek for this man.
What can I say about this film that hasn’t been said before? It is absolutely masterful on every level. The directing, acting, cinematography and exhilarating editing by the talented Thelma Schoonmaker is all superb.
This film has to be a part of any self respecting film fan’s collection.
The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen in a 1080p/AVC presentation. The black and white cinematography looks absolutely radiant. The transfer is first rate with no noticeable edge enhancement. I did not see any artifacts or grain throughout.
The film is presented in 5.1 DTS HD Audio mix. The dialogue, while clear, seems a bit “low”. The score and the ambient noise are mixed well.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The films are presented in a standard blu ray amaray case encased in a cardboard slipcase with a suitably subtle artwork on the cover.
Wow, there is an impressive collection of bonus features on this release. Let’s begin, shall we?
Commentary with Director Martin Scorsese and Film Editor Thelma Schoomaker is definitely worth your time to take a listen as two of cinema’s greatest talents discuss their work.
Cast and Crew Commentary is another great commentary that brings a different perspective into the film.
Storytellers commentary with Jake La Motta, Jason Lustig, Mardik Martin and Paul Schrader is a very engaging commentary that I found very entertaining.
Raging Bull: Inside the Ring details the choreography of the fight scenes. Raging Bull: Before the Fight is a comprehensive look at the writing, casting and preproduction of this legendary film.
Raging Bull: Outside the Ring details the tight film schedule of the film. Raging Bull: After the Fight is a look into the post production of the film.
The Bronx Bull is a more comprehensive interview with Jake La Motta himself.
De Niro vs La Motta offers a scene by scene look at the differences between the staged fights and the actual fights.
La Motta Defends the Title is archival newsreel footage. Rounding things out is the original theatrical trailer.
Overall (Not an Average) 10/10
The Film 10/10
The Video 10/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 10/10
Overall ( Not an Average) 10/10