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Raging Bull (1980)

In the 1940s La Motta’s rage is neither contained nor abated by the boxing ring. His young second wife Vickie becomes another excuse for his bouts of intense rage, his brother Joey trying desperately to show him that not all problems can be solved through fighting. But Joey himself is not immune to this attitude, succumbing to it throughout the film.

Shot in black and white, it’s La Motta’s later career that’s grainy, reading like an old Hollywood film, while the central story in the 1940s is crisp, sharper and more immediate, no doubt as it is in La Motta’s mind. Though the fighting spills out of the boxing ring in the opening fight, the boxing ring is where La Motta’s violence becomes poetic.

As the man crippled by imagined defeats (he’ll never fight Joe Lewis because he is in a different weight class) and convinced his wife is cheating on him, in this film it’s Jake, the protagonist, who is the self-destructive, reckless one who needs to be reigned in by his brother. The brother in this case is a biological one, and so his nature is almost as self-destructive as that of Jake.