"Raging Bull" has been called the greatest film of the 80s. After seeing this film last night I would say it is one of the most powerful films of all time. De Niro, was also at the top of his game here, as Jake LaMotta, the infamous boxer known for his abusive life style and somewhat paranoid delusions during his reign as world middleweight boxing champion, 1949 - 1951. Throughout the film, he beats his wife (played expertly and convincingly by the 19-year-old Cathy Moriarty), convinced that she is cheating on him, and that is more or less what the film is truly about. The boxing is just what he does for a living, and could be considered as a way to release some of his deeper, harbored anger.
The film is most often compared to "Rocky," more than any other, apparently because they both concern a certain level of boxing. As much as I absolutely adore "Rocky," "Raging Bull" is a deeper, more realistic film. But whereas "Raging Bull" is raw, "Rocky" is inspiring. The only connecting thread is the apparently central theme of boxing, which is used as a theme in "Rocky," and a backdrop in "Raging Bull." They're entirely different motion pictures -- one uplifting, the other somewhat depressing -- and the people who try to decide which is better need to seriously re-evaluate their reasons for doing so. They both succeed splendidly well at what they are trying to do, and that's all I have to say about their so-called connection.
The boxing scenes easily rank with the most brutal and violent moments ever put on film, shot in stark, unadorned black and white and utilizing unlikely sounds including shattering windows and animal cries to great effect. Thelma Schoonmaker's jarring, discordant editing in these scenes also deserves special mention. The scenes of domestic violence are not for the faint of heart, but there is really no other way to tell this story.
This is certainly one of the most intense films Scorsese has directed, and one of the most important of his career. Along with "Taxi Driver," it is an iconic motion picture that will stand the test of time for years and years to come.