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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Bull in a China Shop

Raging Bull (1980) on IMDb

Plot Overview

An opening sets the ambiance of an enrobed boxer dancing around the ring as cameras flash. That flashes to an over-the-hill Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro) practicing his 1964 stand-up routine that includes material from his past boxing days. The film then moves back to NYC, 1941, a fight with Reeves where the tenth round bell sounds before the ref completes his count on Jake's knocked out opponent, and they give Reeves the decision that should've gone to Jake … but “The people knew.”

We follow him home where Jake wearing a wifebeater argues with his wife over an “over­cooked” steak. Seems he has trouble separating work from his family life. Under management from his loyal brother Joey (Joe Pesci), Jake's career blossoms, he marries a second younger wife Vickie (Cathy Moriarty), they have children, he wins fights, he throws fights, he loses fights, and then he retires opening a night­club called Jake LaMotta's where he pursues jail bait and does his own stand-up routines garnishing laughs from his woes, albeit little sympathy (“That's entertainment!”)


This movie plays itself out like a section of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. (Eccl. 7:2) “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.” The moment of sad reflection over a deceased prize­fighter is worth more than a fun night at the Copacabana.

(Eccl. 7:3) “Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” Jake let his new escort take a taxi by her­self home while he met with his patient wife to receive the sad news.

(Eccl. 7:4) “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Jake is truly lamenting his past foibles while the night­club clientele is laughing it up.

(Eccl. 7:5-6) “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.” Again the laughter of the fools at the clubs counter­poised with reprimands to Jake from various wise sources.

(Eccl. 7:7) “Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.” Unnecessary savagery against Jake's opponent and roughing up his women irks any wise man, and the bribe to throw a fight corrupted Jake.

(Eccl. 7:8) “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” Retirement from the ring is a better experience than the over­confi­dent vim and vigor starting out.

(Eccl. 7:9) “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.” A good object lesson from the “Bronx Bull” later dubbed, “Raging Bull.”

(Eccl. 7:10) “Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.” Jake does some serious reminiscing about his glory days, but what good does it do?

After the last scene there's an intertitle paying tribute to one of director Scorsese's film professors, Haig Manoogian.  So, for the second time, the Pharisees summoned the man who had been blind and said: / “Speak the truth before God. / We know this fellow is a sinner.” / “Whether or not he is a sinner, I do not know,” / The man replied. / “All I know is this: / Once I was blind and now I can see.” - John 9:24-26 / the New English Bible Of this trans­lation Prof. Light­foot writes: (195)

The publication of the New English Bible New Testament coincided with the 350th anniversary of the King James Version (KJV) [i.e. 1961], but its historic[al] importance lies in the fact that it is a complete departure from the respected ancestry of the Tyndale–King James tradition. …

The New English Bible embodies a new principle of translation. The older revisions, especially the Revised Version of 1881–85, were scrupulously literal. Translators insisted that a version was “faithful” only if it met the word-for-word requirement. But the New English Bible … broke away from the word-for-word principle by replacing Greek constructions and idioms with those of contemporary English.

The narrative of “Raging Bull” ends at 1964, making this 1961 New Testament version cutting edge for this film. The (British) Revised Version of 1881–85, of course, started the ball rolling by disregarding the advice of Prof. George P. Marsh given in a graduate lecture in 1859 on the regular English Bible of the Tyndale–King James tradition, (448–9)

the English Bible sustains, and always has sustained to the general English tongue, the position of a treatise upon a special know­ledge requiring, like any branch of science, a special nomen­clature and phrase­ology. The language of the law, for example, in both vocabu­lary and structure, differs widely from that of unpro­fes­sional life; the language of medicine, of meta­physics, of astronomy, of chemistry, of mechanical art, all these have their approp­riate idioms, very diverse from the speech which is the common heri­tage of all. Why, then, should theology, the highest of know­ledges, alone be required to file her tongue to the vulgar utterance, when every other human interest has its own approp­riate expression, which no man thinks of conforming to a standard that, because it is too common, can hardly be other than unclean?

But we couldn't have all those thee's and thou's, now could we, gumming up the works? Let's look at what we were given in the way of second person pronouns by the KJV in the above John 9 discourse:
(John 9:19) “your son who ye say was born blind” / ye is plural pronoun, subjective case.
(John 9:26) “What did he to thee? How opened he thine eyes?” / thee is singular pronoun, objective case.
(John 9:27) “He answered them, I have told you already” / you is plural pronoun, objective case.
(John 9:28) “Then they reviled him and said, Thou art his disciple” / thou is singular pronoun, subjective case.

So we've got in the KJV four second person pronouns to read depending on case and number, while in new English (including the common tongue in 1611), we just use one, you, for every case and number. Let's see how they did in this film where a Bronx dialect is spoken.
Jake La Motta: “You mean, you want me to get him to f__k you?” / you is singular pronoun, both subjective & objective cases.
Jake La Motta stand-up routine: “As you know, my life wasn't drab / Though I'd much ... rather hear you cheer.” / you is plural pronoun, subjective & objective cases.
Joey LaMotta: “What are ya thinkin' about?” / ya is singular pronoun, subjective case.
Jake La Motta: “Joey, how many times I gotta tell ya?” / ya is singular pronoun, objective case.
Jake La Motta: “I'll give ya both a fuckin' beatin', ya both can f__k each other.” / ya is plural pronoun, objective and subjective cases.
Jake La Motta: “I get ya's both in the ring,” / ya's is plural pronoun, objective case.
mob boss: “I'm disgusted with the two of youse.” / youse is plural pronoun, objective case.
Jake La Motta: Because I'll get youse both in a ring, I'll give youse both a f__kin' beatin' / youse is plural pronoun, objective case.
In the Bronx dialect of “Raging Bull” we hear used four different second person pronouns: you, ya, ya's & youse. The former two can represent either number or case, the latter two are only plural.

There is one context in this movie where one dare not mix up the exclusive plural pronouns with the others. When early on Jake is eyeing Vickie by the pool, Joey tells him, “You're married! You're a married man, it's all over. Leave the young girls for me.” You is singular so “you a married man” should “leave the young girls for” other single men. If, how­ever, Joey says, “Youse is married,” that means ya's both (plural) should get together—what Joey tells Jake numerous times after he's alienated his wife.

That corresponds in one place (at least) in the KJV to where Paul—not talking about marriage—addresses the Corinthian church (in his second epistle) about body life and ministry, and he tells them as a group, plural, (2Cor. 6:14) “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ...” He's addressing group behavior, he uses the plural ye. Now that our bibles have been updated, eliminating the thee's & thou's, we get the one-size-fits-all you, such as in the New King James Version (NKJV), “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ...” This is what's called an "under­stood you", not explicitly stated, and, of course, the NKJV readers must judge from context whether singular or plural is meant—it's plural.

People, however, use it as if it were singular and in another context to tell the outlier Christian not to marry a nonbeliever. That's called a proof text, a shortened text taken out of context. My argument reductio ad absurdum is, using the Bronx dialect for illustration here rather than the KJV, to say “Don't youse be unequally yoked,” the plural giving the sense that a mixed couple should divorce, or I could use the more modern loose trans­lation method, “Don't the two of youse be unequally yoked together.” This is supposed to provoke my adversary to say that such an exhortation to a married couple would contradict Paul in First Corinthians 7 who allows mixed couples to remain married. At that point I would show that my analysis of I Corithians 7 shows that Paul also allows mixed couples to wed. But in order for a reductio ad absurdum argument to work, it has to be expansive, with, say, lots of mixed couples getting married as examples, and lots of translations using the plurals ya's, youse, youns & y'all y'all. But no, the mixed marriage is (under­stand­ably) in the minority, and the new translations don't even put in a stated you, much less in its plural form. There­fore I expand by quoting the KJV all the more often to familiarize my opponents with its second person usages in particular, and sacred dialect in general. Not realizing they're on shaky ground, not under­standing the logical device I use, that seems to only alienate them as were Vickie and Jake alienated from each other when he was being unreasonable and she responded by arguing reductio ad absurdum.

Production Values

Raging Bull” (1980) was directed by Martin Scorsese. It was based on the book Raging Bull, Jake La Motta's memoir, and the screen­play was written by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin. It stars Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, and Joe Pesci. De Niro undeniably deserved his “Best Actor” award for lead actor. His performance stands head and shoulders above the rest. Both he and Cathy Moriarty portrayed their characters well. The supporting performances from wife Cathy Moriarty (as Vickie) and brother Joe Pesci (as Joey) were outstanding, too.

This movie is rated R. It's violent and intense and foul of speech. Black & White and Color mix give it an artistic feel with crisp cinema­tog­raphy. Cinematographer Michael Chapman was at his peak, and his superb work was complemented by the editing of Thelma Schoonmaker who just let the film roll along, it was that well shot in sequence. The fight scenes being the heart of “Raging Bull” were a tour de force of technique. Scorsese placed the camera in the ring thus keeping the audience inside the experience, and a sound­scape was added after­wards as the raw film was muted for the noisy camera. Each fight scene was storyboarded and shot differently, with different sound, corresponding to the different themes at times in the boxer's life.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

Some polls peg “Raging Bull” as the top film of the 1980s. Maybe it is, but I was not so impressed with it, though I enjoyed it well enough. I'm pretty easy to please, but this one was just a bit on the intense side for my sensibilities. It's more than a sports picture, though, and evidently a lot of people like it. So it'll be at least okay, I figure, and maybe great depending on your likes.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Several suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Unless otherwise indicated, scripture is taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, Print.

Lightfoot, Neil R.. How We Got the Bible. New York: MJF Books, 2003. Print.

Marsh, George P. “Formation of our English sacred dialect.”
       Lectures on the English Language. London: John Murray, 1863. Print.
       ——available to read or download at www.bibles.n7nz.org.