What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions

Classic Movies My Wife Hates – Episode 2: “Raging Bull”

  • Today’s Movie:  Raging Bull
  • Year of Release: 1980
  • Stars: Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty
  • Director: Martin Scorsese

This movie is on my list of essential films.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this piece are those of Mrs. J-Dub and do not necessarily reflect those of J-Dub, Dubsism, or anybody else to whom you might want to send hate mail.

We came to this movie through a usual vector, the good people at TCM.  As Mrs. J-Dub isn’t the aficionado of classic film that I am, nonetheless she was curious about this movie once I told her this was the first movie to bring us the “Deniro/Pesci” dynamic even non-classic film fans love from films with universal appeal like “GoodFellas” and “Casino.”

But in the eyes of Mrs. J-Dub, that dynamic didn’t carry over to this movie.

The question is…do you agree?

Reason #1) “Jake LaMotta Is An Asshole.”

Why She Says That:

Well, duh…of course he’s an asshole. What did she expect? He’s a guy who makes his living punching people in the face. More often not, that’s not going to be the same guy who volunteers his Saturday afternoons helping special needs children, unless some researcher discovers the therapeutic value of a right cross. Trust me, if there ever was a guy who would try to slug the limp out of a disabled kid, it would be LaMotta.

DeNiro’s portrayal of LaMotta is all about a horrible confluence of paralyzing jealousy and sexual insecurity stuffed into a guy who can turn your face into “Grade F” meat with one punch. This character borrows heavily from the stereotypical Hollywood thugish mid-20th century Italian, if no other reason than all stereotypes evolve from at least a kernel of truth. Season that with the back-drop of the typical characters and setting of a poor neighborhood in 1940’s New York, and you wonder what the hell she expected?

Reason #2) Somehow, she expected “Rocky.”

Why She Says That:

Like DeNiro’s “LaMotta,” Stallone’s “Rocky” is another stereotypical, lower-middle class mook who has a talent for belting people. But “Rocky” isn’t an asshole. He can’t be. “Rocky” totally doesn’t work if you are cheering against him; don’t tell me you didn’t feel at least a bit let down by how “Rocky” ends.

For me, when it comes to LaMotta, I want him to get the bejeezus beaten out of him everytime he gets in the ring, espcially after the “He ain’t pretty no more” scene. After LaMotta’s wife (Cathy Moriarty) calls one of his opponents “good-looking,” he proceeds to pound this guy’s face into zoo food. After delivering what may very well be one of the most savage beatings ever inflicted which didn’t involve weapons, LaMotta eyeballs his wife to let her know what will happen to anybody she calls “good-looking” again.

Nobody would have EVER cheered for “Rocky” if he had slapped around the nearly-retarded “Adrian” or drunken stumble-bum “Uncle Paulie.”

Reason #3) No, seriously…what did she expect?

Why She Says That:

Let’s just cut to the chase here. How many other times does she need to see DeNiro as a bad guy in a Scorsese movie?

  • Mean Streets – “Johnny Boy” Civello, a self-destructive small-time punk gambler who lets his trouble rub off on everybody around him
  • Taxi Driver – Travis Bickel, a homicidal maniac in love with a 12-year old prostitute
  • New York, New York – Jimmy Doyle, a border-line psychotic who beats up his pregnant wife before he abandons her
  • Raging Bull – Jake LaMotta, wife-beater extraordinaire
  • The King of Comedy – Rupert Pupkin, an obsessive who resorts to stalking and kidnapping
  • GoodFellas – Jimmy Conway, a hoodlum with I can’t tell you haw many murders under his belt
  • Cape Fear – Max Cady, a serial rapist who bites off part of a woman’s face
  • Casino – Sam “Ace” Rothstein, a narcissistic control freak who destroys nearly everything he touches

In other words, in the pantheon of deranged Scorsese characters played by DeNiro, Jake LaMotta is pretty far down the list in terms of being a bad guy. Not to mention, there’s also a movie coming out later this year called “The Irishman;” directed by Scorsese, and starring DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino. I wonder what the body count in that flick will be?

Reason #4) The “Type-Casting” of Nicholas Colasanto

Why She Says That:

In the initial installment in this series, I introduced you to a phenomenon known as “reverse typecasting.” This happens when when you see an actor who played a role in something which became part of this country’s cultural fabric, and even when you see them in something made before their face became associated with an iconic character, that’s all you can see.

In this case, this means anybody who saw the classic 1980’s sit-com “Cheers” before they saw this film are going to have a hard time with the lovable bartender Ernie “Coach” Pantusso as a mob boss who would rather take a hammer to your kneecaps than pour you a beer.

Reason #5) “It’s in Black and White”

Why She Says That:

Of all the reasons Mrs. J-Dub give for not liking this movie, this is the one where I think she’s the most full of shit. She’s watched all kinds of movies in black and white and thought they were just fine. The two most recent examples being Stalag 17 and Schindler’s List. Maybe for her if a movie is in black and white, it needs Nazis.

Reason #6) “It’s Really Not About Boxing”

Why She Says That:

Finally, an assessment of this film on which the wife and I can agree. The dead give-away is that in two hours of running time, “Raging Bull” never once touches the topic of fight strategy. Instead, between the way DeNiro plays combined with Scorsese’s use of perception-warping techniques, the fight scenes become a brutal exercise in LaMotta using the beatings he takes as some sort of self-flagellant-like journey through confession, penance, and absolution all in the ring.

That’s why there is absolutely no need for any actual boxing and the strategy therein.  That’s because without getting all “artsy-fartsy,” “Raging Bull” is not a film about boxing but about a man with for whom being punished in the ring serves as It is no accident that the For Jake LaMotta, what happens during a fight is controlled not by tactics but by his fears and drives.

The Gene Rayburn Memorial “Movies My Wife Hates” Poll

gene rayburn

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About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

One comment on “Classic Movies My Wife Hates – Episode 2: “Raging Bull”

  1. SportsChump
    September 23, 2018

    Yeah… this just upsets me.

    The whole damn thing.


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This entry was posted on September 18, 2018 by in Movies, Sports and tagged , , , , , .

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