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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - March, 2011

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"Raging Bull" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-february-2011-raging-bull

Synopsis

Raging Bull is the story of the life of boxer Jake LaMotta who had his heyday in the 1940s.  We begin in 1941 just as LaMotta has turned professional.  As he fights one bout after another, he earns the nickname “Raging Bull” and other boxers become afraid to fight him.  As we quickly see, LaMotta is a Raging Bull outside the ring as well.  His abusive behavior extends to everyone around him including his brother Joey and his wife Vicki.  He struggles to achieve a shot at the championship title but eventually he does and wins against Frenchman Marcel Cerdan.  After a brief reign, he is defeated by Sugar Ray Robinson in their sixth fight and so begins LaMotta’s downward slide.  He opens a bar and tries his hand at standup comedy but the self-inflicted damage done to his life is irreparable.  The movie fades out as LaMotta prepares to take the stage at yet another nightclub…

Specifications

  • MGM/20th Century Fox
  • 1980, Black & White, Rated R, 2 Hr 9 min
  • Aspect Ratio:  1.85:1
  • Codec:  AVC
  • 1080p
  • English, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty
  • Directed by Martin Scorsese
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

I found this film extremely difficult to watch.  On one hand, it’s one of the best-crafted movies I’ve ever seen.  The cinematography and acting are simply without peer.  Robert DeNiro earned his Oscar win like no other actor I’ve ever witnessed.  His performance is guaranteed to make you hate every part of Jake LaMotta’s personality and behavior.  To say this movie produces an emotional response is a gross understatement.  That brings me to the reason for my three-star entertainment rating.  The subject matter is, for lack of a better word, disturbing.  I have rarely seen such abusive behavior portrayed in any film or TV show.  LaMotta is truly a monster in every sense of the word.  His paranoia drives him to almost non-stop verbal abuse and sometimes violent physical acts against his closest friends and family.  While Raging Bull is shot tastefully, without excess gore and violence, the emotions portrayed are so primitive and powerful; one cannot help but be affected.  The intensity of this film is not for everyone.

Technical

The image is quite good and imparts a vintage feel with its prevalent film grain and black & white presentation.  Detail is not razor-sharp, nor is it meant to be.  This is a tough gritty movie and the image suits it perfectly.  My only complaint – edge enhancement.  I will continue to dock a star for this because it’s totally unnecessary.  Every display has a sharpness control.  If a viewer wants edge enhancement, he need only tap on his remote.  No telecine artist should be including this artifact in their transfer.  Contrast was rich and deep and the Blu-ray looked especially nice when I switched over to a 5500K color temp.  Doing this warms up the grayscale nicely and gives the film a vintage look that increases dimension and vibrancy.

Sound quality was below average.  The balance between voices and environmental effects seemed tipped away from the voices to the point where I had to increase the volume substantially to understand the dialog.  Despite the lossless encode, the entire soundstage was narrow and compressed-sounding.  Perhaps Mr. Scorsese was going for a period newsreel atmosphere but I don’t think it added to the presentation.  No original music was created for Raging Bull.  Only the opening and closing of the film had a Wagner-style overture played by a symphony orchestra.

Extras

The bonus features are quite generous.  First off, there are three commentary tracks with Martin Scorsese and various cast and crew members.  Four new featurettes are included covering the making of the film.  There is an appearance by Cathy Moriarty on The Tonight Show from 1981.  Then we have a four-part documentary on the history of the real Jake LaMotta.  Finally in addition to original newsreel footage of LaMotta’s title bout, there is a shot-by-shot comparison of Robert DeNiro versus Jake LaMotta in the ring.  Also included in the box is a DVD version of the film. There is also a making-of featurette, an extended ending with commentary, deleted and extended scenes, storyboards and a music video.