Running time: 129 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 18
UK Release date: 10th April 1981
Watched on DVD Sunday 20th March 2011.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
I have to admit first of all that I’m not a great fan of boxing, but I know who Jake La Motta was and I’m aware of what he achieved. This biopic tells of his rise to fame, but it also tells of his life out of the ring, about his brother, his wife and how he eventually fell from grace, only to get up again. But more of that later, here’s a brief summary first (summary haters and those that don’t wish to know anything about the plot please take fifteen rounds with Sugar Ray while I write the next paragraph).
As we begin, Jake La Motta is already a well known boxer, he is married to his first wife with whom he constantly argues. He is managed by his brother Joey who does his best to get him fights in the hope he’ll get a shot at the title. It seems a long time coming but Jake has other things on his mind at the moment. He as seen a girl, Vickie, who has taken his eye. She is blonde and very popular with everyone, including the rich Salvy, another local guy from the Bronx. But Jake is determined and eventually makes her his. They eventually marry, but Jake is always wary of other men, including his brother, around his wife. This streak of jealousy will eventually cost him dearly. Inside the ring, he has no such problems, beating all comers, and beating them so well that nobody wants to fight him. Eventually his chance comes, but there’s a catch... And there, I’ll have to leave it as the spoiler police would lock me up if I said any more.
Shot almost entirely in black and white, this film has the look and feel of one made back in the 1940’s to 1950’s. This works very well to give the atmosphere of the period in which it is set. A nice, mostly unobtrusive, score also works very well to set the tone of the movie. I thought Robert De Niro was tremendous as Jake La Motta, he gave his all for this part, even putting on a lot of weight for the latter scenes where La Motta becomes a stand-up comedian. Joe Pesci was also excellent as his brother Joey and Cathy Moriarty was good too as the sultry Vickie.
This film is seen by many as a modern classic, and I can see why, it is very good I can’t deny Scosese’s skill. I think the main problem I found with it was that I didn’t find it particularly entertaining. It’s very melodramatic in places, but it didn’t grip me in the way I expected… or maybe I’m being too harsh. De Niro is truly excellent too, but a great performance doesn’t always make for a great film I’m afraid. If you haven’t seen it before then I can definitely recommend it to you for at least one viewing, if just for De Niro. I’ll maybe watch it again in a few years and rave about it, but for now, it’s very very good… but not great.
My score: 8.4/10