While Raging Bull is the best boxing film ever put to celluloid, it is not really a film about boxing. Instead, we get a biopic of the man, a chance for Scorese to examine his own issues of Catholic guilt -- a recurring issue in his films. Having been seriously addicted to cocaine prior to making this movie, it is also a chance for Scorsese to look at the self destruction he caused to himself by examining the rise and fall story of Jake La Motta.
Consdiering Scorsese thought this could be his last film, he put his all into making it, and it shows. Creatively this is his zenith, with his mesmerising black-and-white style and the brutal yet almost grandiose fight scenes.
If Scorsese is at his best in this movie, it can be argued that so too is De Niro. Famously pilling on pounds to play the overweight La Motta, he took his Method acting genuis to spectacular heights. Joe Pesci is superb also, another actor on top of his game in probably his best role, with Moriaty also superb as La Motta's long-suffering wife.
While De Niro got an Oscar, Scorsese was criminally ignored for the film he most deserved one. This is him at his best, though, producing a raw, brutal, visceral tale of a pugilist at war with himself that is difficult to watch yet hugely rewarding. But, alas, as with alot of film classics, they are not recognised upon release for what they are. Raging Bull is no different, widely regarded now as a modern classic, yet upon its release it lost out on the Best Picture Oscar to Ordinary People. Criminal.