goodfellas

Sloppy Saturdays: Volume 1 – ‘Raging Bull’

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What is ‘Sloppy Saturdays’?

I realized that I own over 300 movies, many of which I have not watched a second time. Whether on Blu-Ray, DVD, or the legendary LaserDisc, I have a lot of films I need to watch again. So, I’ve decided I should probably go through these and justify why I own them, and perhaps, why you should too. I put them all into a database and will randomly mix them up once a week. Come back every Saturday for a new review. 

-Nick, Editor of CinemAbysmal

 

Sloppy Saturdays – Volume One

Raging Bull (1980) – Drama

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci

Format I Own: Blu-Ray

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Synopsis

Raging Bull is the story of Jake LaMotta, middleweight boxer and serial wife abuser. A genuinely hard film to watch at times, Robert DeNiro earned every bit of the Oscar gold that came his way after this movie dropped. Cathy Moriarty brilliantly plays his wife, Vickie, and Joe Pesci is introduced to the acting world as his brother, Joey. The film follows LaMotta’s rise and fall in the ring from 1941 to 1964, as well as his explosive temper outside the ring. The American Film Institute has recognized the film as #4 in the greatest 100 American films, and the #1 Sports film of all time.

What I Love

What initially drew me to Raging Bull years ago, was Martin Scorsese’s name. I admittedly had not seen a great number of his movies, but I adored GoodfellasGangs of New York, and being relatively young, The Departed, of course. Since watching Raging Bull, I’ve definitely expanded my Scorsese horizons, but this one is absolutely one of his best. It’s absolutely beautiful, especially on the Blu-Ray copy. The fighting montages are brilliant, the score is haunting, and the cinematography by Michael Chapman, which contrasts deep blacks and popping whites (this is a black and white film, by the way) is incredibly stunning.

DeNiro, as I said above, is wonderful in this. He pulled a Christian Bale and gained more than 60 pounds by the time the filming was complete to play the older version of LaMotta. The makeup applied to his face to make him look like a worn fighter is more than uncomfortable to look at. He won his first and only Best Actor Oscar (he won Best Supporting Actor for Godfather II), and deserved every piece of that statue. Pesci, who was both virtually unknown, and making his first Scorsese appearance, is incredible as DeNiro’s brother.

My Favorite Scene

The sixth and final fight with Sugar Ray Robinson is the most beautiful scene in the film. Almost all of the fighting sequences are great, as Scorsese zooms in on the fighters and allows the sound to go silent, as the score weaves in and out of the fists in slow motion. But something about this final fight sequence just gets me. The high contrast of the scene is mystifying. At one point, Scorsese chooses to turn the sound off and the camera zooms in on Robinson, breathing heavily as LaMotta is collapsing on the ropes. The build-up to the final punches is huge, as blood sprays in jets from LaMotta’s head, covering the crowd and announcers in a sea of blackened gore. It’s gorgeous.

What You Might Not Like

Jake LaMotta seems like he was a real asshole. Not only does he kick the shit out of Joe Pesci’s character multiple times, for seemingly nothing, he abuses two of his wives, both mentally and physically. If you’re at all familiar with the previous film Scorsese did with the screenwriter Paul Schrader – Taxi Driver – you might know what to expect: a gritty, unflinching portrait of a man with a lot of fucking problems. Raging Bull is no different, and Scorsese does not let up in the lip-biting viciousness of LaMotta’s character. Like I said, at times, this is a difficult film to watch.

How You Can Watch

  • Streaming on HBO Now as of 3/29/2017
  • Rent for $2.99 on Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu

 

Final Score: 4/4

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Similar Films: Taxi Driver, The Fighter, Warrior

Black Mass

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Black Mass (2015) – Gangster | Drama

Directed by: Scott Cooper

Starring: Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton

How I Watched: Amazon Instant Video

Best Line: “The last thing I would do if I was planning to harm you is to warn you in advance, you dumb fuck.”

One of the most polarizing genres of film is the gangster movie. Loyalists often argue the merits behind the Godfather films and compare those with the absolute perfection of GoodFellas. Personally, I love the first two of the Godfather trilogy and GoodFellas about just as much as the other (admit it, you watch GoodFellas every time you happen upon it clicking through channels). A good gangster flick is just perfect sometimes. While Black Mass can’t really be placed in this higher echelon, it is still a damn good time and may even take its own place as time goes on.

Scott Cooper has only directed two movies previous to Black Mass. Those that saw Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart (for which he won an Oscar) know a bit of what to expect out of a Cooper film; it’s going to be dark, dirty, a bit depressing and there’s going to be some pretty cool music. 2013’s critically under-appreciated (in my opinion) Out of the Furnace continued this trend, but turned those elements up to the max. Woody Harrelson is especially disgusting and I felt like there was definitely a lot more that we were going to get out of Cooper.

Then the trailer for Black Mass hit. Cooper traded the country music and Appalachian meth dealers in for 1970’s Boston gangsterland. Johnny Depp looked like he fell out of a Tim Burton nightmare and I honestly thought it looked too much like The Departed. The more I watched it though, the more I was intrigued. When I learned more about the supporting cast (including Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Peter Sarsgaard, etc.), I knew I had to check this one out.

Let’s start with what is great about this movie. I love The Departed. The accents, the cast, the crazy ending; all are great about that film. One thing I’ve noticed as time goes on though, is that it feels too chaotic, almost disjointed in its storytelling. Scorcese does some frantic cuts and at times, it’s difficult to keep up, but I think that’s also what makes his movies as exciting as they are. Black Mass, like The Departed is based in Boston, but it spans over a few decades. It does not take the same approach and really paces itself in its build-up of Johnny Depp’s character, Whitey Bulger.

This is important, because I really believe this character is one of the chameleon-esque Depp’s best. From the moment his face appears, it’s clear that this is not going to be the kooky Depp we so often get. This is a character that can stand on its own in the gangster canon, including the Vic Vega’s, the Tommy DeVito’s, the Michael Corleone’s. Depp’s Bulger is downright frightening, and his presence steals every scene in this film.

Something that I felt the movie was missing though, was just a little bit more to the story to make it more exciting. I don’t want to say it lags in the middle, but there was a definite change of tone from where the film started. If you can handle changes like this in movies, you’ll be just fine and appreciate Cooper trying to tell a story, but I could see how some would check out at this point.

There are a lot of moments in Black Mass where I felt like I did watching Out of the Furnace: Cooper is trying some really cool things. There are some awesome zoom shots in Black Mass that I wasn’t expecting and he even seems to be experimenting with some Nicolas Winding Refn-ish, neon-infused backdrops that really breathe some life into the gritty browns I’ve come to expect from Cooper’s films.

If you like gangster movies, you’re probably going to like this one. There’s great one-liners, it’s bloody as hell at times, and it’s got some great characters. It may not stand up as one of the best in the genre, but god damn, it’s worth the ticket alone for Johnny’s Depp’s Bulger.

Final Score: 3/4

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Similar Films: Killing Them Softly, Out of the Furnace, The Departed