Boxing movies are a revered form of American cinema, like westerns and mafia movies. Much like these other genres, there is a thin line between what makes a great movie and a bad movie. You have to make the lifestyle and action as realistic as possible, otherwise it can’t be pulled off.
With the recent passing of the undisputed greatest boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali, I would expect to see a rise in boxing movies due to the fact that the current generation doesn’t know about the glory days of the sport, and I’m pretty sure there could be several films about different aspects of Ali’s life, as there already have been. But there is that line that can’t be crossed, between the feeling of reality, and the obvious mockery that could be made.
These recent events are what make the release of the newest boxing movie, The Bronx Bull, that much more tragic of a movie. The movie is based on the early years and later years of one of the most polarizing figures in boxing history, Jake LaMotta.
Jake LaMotta is a great story and a perfect persona for a movie and his boxing career is equally as fascinating as he is. There is only one problem when it comes to making a movie about Jake LaMotta, Martin Scorsese already has done that with Raging Bull, and it is considered one of the great sports, boxing and overall films, ever made. Nominated for eight Academy Awards and winner of two including, Robert De Niro for Best Actor as LaMotta.
Martin Guigui has decided that he’s going to tell the story of LaMottas very early youth years mixed in with a telling of his post boxing career. This was clearly an undertaking he was very unprepared for. Having straight to video movies on his resume, I am amazed at the cast he was able to assemble. Even more amazing is the fact he was even able to raise financing to complete the movie.
Guigui has written one of the most uneven scripts for a biopic that I can think of. His direction of it, I can only hope is what makes it so bad, or the question of the lead actors and the financial backers, sanity needs to be questioned.
The movie starts with LaMotta testifying before congress in 1967 about his mob related ties. The members of Congress appear to be more interested in his boxing stories than the information they seek from him. It isn’t long before the entire story of testifying is abandoned without explanation. This sets a pattern for every period of time that Guigui focuses on, all of which are very anticlimactic and ultimately boring.
I am a fan of several of the actors in the movie, including the lead actor, William Forsythe. Forsythe plays a much more polished and calm, yet uneven LaMotta. I understand his desire not to do a LaMotta or even De Niro imitation, but LaMotta himself felt he was watching himself when De Niro portrayed him, as did most anyone who knew him.
Paul Sorvino once again plays a part in any movie with Italian themes and story lines. He plays LaMotta’s father, who is an Italian immigrant. His Italian accent is amongst the worst that could have been done. While Forsythe underwent the makeup needed to age him, Sorvino clearly did not, making Forsythe look older at times.
The inconsistency of the story line, the visuals and pretty much every aspect of this film rank it with one of the worst I’ve seen. I would have to say that Airplane! would have been a better retelling of the Airport movies of the 70’s than this would have been of LaMotta’s life.
I do my best to find good things in every film I watch. Unfortunately this is one of the rare few where I can not do that.