A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this 1980 biopic about boxing champion Jake LaMotta is one of the most highly acclaimed American movies ever made. It's supremely brutal, with punishing boxing sequences as well as shocking violence set outside the ring (Jake beats up his wives and his brother). Language is very strong, including "f--k," "s--t," "c--t," and "c--k," and there is at least one scene with strong sexual suggestion. Some characters drink and smoke, but in a background way, and there's an ad for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer on television. Teens interested in cinema history will eventually discover this one, but don't let the old-fashioned black-and-white cinematography fool you: this one is for older teens and grownups only.
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What's the story?
In 1964, old, fat, washed-up Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro) prepares for his nightclub routine. Flashing back to 1941, we meet young Jake, vicious and angry, delivering punishing blows to his opponents in the boxing ring. Outside the ring, he doesn't behave much differently. He fights with his wife, seduces a young girl, Vicki (Cathy Moriarity), marries her and begins treating her with jealousy and suspicion. His brother Joey (Joe Pesci) sticks by him, but Jake even treats him badly. Eventually Jake wins the middleweight championship, but can he stop the inevitable downfall that follows?
Is it any good?
Director Martin Scorsese uses gorgeous black-and-white photography to evoke the period. But that barely covers up the mean, modern stuff, from the language and behavior to the ferocious fight sequences. (Scorsese deliberately shot them to be cinematic rather than realistic.) On top of it all, the performances set a new standard for American movies and actors, with De Niro famously gaining 60 pounds over the course of the production. Pesci and Moriarity perfectly match him. Rarely do movies explode with this much power.
One of the world's most respected movie directors, Scorsese made Raging Bull at an interesting period, coming between his gritty New York movies (Taxi Driver) and his slick gangster movies (GoodFellas); it has attributes of both, making it something of an essential Scorsese experience. His camera angles and the Oscar-winning editing are flawless, including the memorable first meeting of Jake and Vicki through a chain-link fence.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's violence. How is the violence in the ring different from the violence outside the ring? How did the filmmakers highlight the violence in this movie?
What has made this movie stand the test of time?
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