AFI Top 100 (#24)
Released 1980 (Canada & USA simultaneously)
American, in English
Director - Martin Scorsese
Stars - Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty
It’s a biopic of real-life boxer Jake La Motta (DeNiro). Pesci co-stars as Jake’s brother/manager, Joe, and Moriarty as Jake’s wife, Vickie.
Lots of blue language, lots of violence, implied sexy times between an adult male & teenaged female.
Not that I’m terribly keen to see realistic violence, but the action was terrible in this. I could tell they were pulling their punches, to the point where at the beginning of the movie, I thought they were doing it on purpose, like the fighters weren’t really trying to hit each other. Then I realized that it was just really bad fight choreography.
Whoever did the sound editing should be shot. I had the volume turned up to nearly 40 (I typically listen to the volume at 15 or so) and could still barely hear most of the dialogue, although the fight scenes were plenty loud. The actors mumbled a lot.
Nothing much happens. Jake acts like a crazy jerk, everyone tiptoes around him as you do with an abusive person, Joe swears a lot (Joe is basically the same character that Pesci always plays), and sometimes there are boxing scenes. That’s the movie in a nutshell.
It’s a fairly interesting character study. It was fascinating (and disturbing and uncomfortable) to watch Jake sabotage himself repeatedly. I guess that’s why people like this movie so much. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion.
Big props to the costumers and set designers. At the beginning, I misread the scene card and thought it started in the 1960s, but it was quickly clear from the set design and costumes that it was actually the 1940s. The whole film was like that. There was never any question when things were taking place.
I wasn’t as impressed with DeNiro’s performance as most people seem to be (it didn’t seem all that different from any other DeNiro character), but I was impressed with his commitment to the role. It must have destroyed his body to first get as skinny as he needed to be for Jake’s early career and then gain 60 pounds for Jake's post-career scenes (or vice versa, depending on how they filmed it).
I thought it was okay. I wasn’t super impressed, but I didn’t hate it either. There is absolutely nothing redeemable about Jake. He never has a change of heart or becomes a better person. He’s not someone you root for. To me, this is the kind of movie you watch so you can think to yourself, “My god, I can’t believe that awful people like this exist. I’m so glad that I don’t know anyone like that.” It’s not fun or entertaining. Its voyeurism at it’s finest. If that’s you’re thing, you’ll probably love it.
I give the movie 3.5 stars.