A Distinctly American Rage

Robert deNiro’s performance as boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull stands as the defining cinematic portrait of pure human rage, and the film may be the perfect representation of the strength and weakness of the American character ideal. “The violence that defines [LaMotta] — and that part of the American character he represents — emerges as simultaneously the source of his great success and the agent of his pathetic undoing… Violence is his path to freedom (sound familiar?) and the means by which he liberates himself from the violent dictates of others, from the despotic gangsters who run his neighbourhood and control his sport. Yet, the same violence is a manifestation of his self-hatred and his sexual insecurity and his paranoid jealousy.”