Raging Bull

Raging Bull (1980)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Featurettes

There are many who have cut their teeth on the 'new' Martin Scorsese. These film fans know of his great collaborations with Leonardo DiCaprio, but haven't dug into his catalogue enough to discover the ultimate pairing. For about twenty years, the combination of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro was hot. WHITE HOT! These artists have delivered so many outstanding moments, it is impossible to choose just one – the debate would last forever. In the overall world of cinema though, most films wouldn't stand a chance in the ring if the opponent is 'Raging Bull'. All of those 'Ordinary People' fans can sit down, as the test of time has shown that Scorsese was robbed of some very deserving awards on Oscar night.

"Raging Bull" is a twenty-three year arc about the punishing professional life and destructive personal life of boxer Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro). With his supportive brother Joey (Joe Pesci) by his side, Jake is a blue collar fighter. He wants to make it the top 'his way', but seems to continually make his journey much tougher than it has to be. Leaving his wife for a fifteen year old beauty Vickie (Cathy Moriarty) and a controversial rivalry with Sugar Ray Robinson (Johnny Barnes) are just the tip of the iceberg in a life full of battle for the troubled boxer.

The more I watch "Raging Bull" the more I am pulled into the struggle that La Motta faces on a day to day basis. He simply self-destructs and it is difficult to tell if it stems from an inflated ego or if he simply can't draw a line in the sand that keeps his aggression in the ring. De Niro is at the top of his game here. I find myself watching "Goodfellas" and "Casino" more, as these films are more 'entertaining' for me, but there is no denying the power of performance in "Raging Bull". This is hands down the finest performance for De Niro in any of his films. Scorsese just let these actors go for it, and that realism translates beautifully onscreen. After watching (and loving) "The Fighter", I tried to pin down what sets these two similar movies apart. It is De Nero. While "The Fighter" is filled with some outstanding performances, the only person who comes close to the level De Niro achieved is Melissa Leo. Since she was more of a secondary character in that tale, this judge rules in favor of "Raging Bull" as the boxing movie with the strongest punch.

If you have seen MGM's previous release for "Raging Bull", then you are familiar with what to expect on this disc. The 1.85:1, 1080p transfer maintains the grain that helps this gritty black and white film stand the test of time and look great in high definition. The movie isn't setup to be reference material, but does have great detail and balances everything very well.

The DTS Master Audio 5.1 track has been ported over as well; bringing the subtle, yet impressive track to home theaters once again. The sound effects are strong and the score is as commanding as La Motta as it booms throughout the soundfield. My only complaint is with the dialogue level. The center channel, typically the cornerstone of the sound mix, all but takes a backseat to everything else. There is not a huge issue with dialogue (certainly not a deal breaker if you are thinking about a purchase), I just wish it were balanced a bit better.

"Raging Bull" was released on Blu-ray in 2009 and those extras have been ported over to this release. No worries though as MGM has given a few new features to round out this 30th Anniversary Edition. The first of three Commentary Tracks features Director Martin Scorsese and Editor Thelma Schoonmaker. The second adds Producers Irwin Winkler, Cis Corman and Robert Chartoff, Cinematographer Michael Chapman, Sound Editor Frank Warner, longtime friend of Scorsese Robbie Robertson and Actors John Turturro and Theresa Saidana. The final commentary is a bit more formal. It is hosted by Mardik Martin, this track has input from Writer Paul Schrader, the man himself Jake La Motta and his nephew Jason Lustig. 'Raging Bull – Fight Night (1:22:32) is a documentary filled with clips from the film, stills, interviews, etc. It kind of sums up all of the other features with the information, but certainly has enough going for it to be a must see extra feature, even with the lengthy runtime. 'Cathy Moriarty on The Tonight Show – March 27, 1981' (6:42) is just as it sounds. The lead actress sits down with the King of Late Night to promote the film. The Bronx Bull (27:54) gives a bit more exposure to the opinions of people not directly involved with the filmmaking process including critics and Mr. Jake La Motta. 'De Niro vs. La Motta' (3:47) shows that De Niro probably couldn't have come any closer to mirroring La Motta onscreen. The features that are new to this release start with 'Marty And Bobby' (13:35) which focuses on the relationship between Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro before, during, and after their collaboration on "Raging Bull". There are modern interviews with key participants in "Raging Bull" mixed with stills and scenes from the film. 'Raging Bull – Reflections on a Classic' (12:15) is a discussion that includes Directors Kimberly Pierce, Richard Kelly, Scott Cooper, and Neil LeBute. They are each accomplished filmmakers with different visions and filmographies. Even with the diversity, they can all agree on one thing – "Raging Bull" has helped define their respective careers. 'Remembering Jake' (11:04) listens in on the Veteran Boxers Association of New York as they discuss Jake La Motta over some food and drinks. 'Marty on Film' (10:30) is semi-autobiographical as Marty talks about film and some early experiences in the industry. The release also comes with a DVD copy of the film.

Leo is great, but latter day Martin Scorsese is just a small piece of this visionary's intricate puzzle of art. For those who haven't seen ALL of the films where Scorsese and Robert De Niro work together, either buy them or rent them immediately. If you watch the films in chronological order, tucked between "New York, New York" and "The King Of Comedy" is a black and white boxing film that will knock you on your ass. "Raging Bull" covers so much ground in such a realistic way, that the film demands multiple viewings. Fortunately, MGM's 30th Anniversary Blu-ray has great audio and video presentations and some outstanding extra features. Housed with a DVD and additional features not on the original Blu-ray release, this version of "Raging Bull" is a must buy.