Blind Spot: Raging Bull

Jake LaMotta (Robert DeNiro) was a middleweight boxer in 1940s and 50s New York. Known as something of a brawler both in and out of the ring, his animalistic tendencies, relationship paranoia and microscopic fuse often found him at odds with his brother Joey (Joe Pesci), second wife Vickie (Cathie Moriarty) and pretty much everyone else he met along the way.
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Killing Season

This review was originally written for Blueprint: Review.

Almost twenty years after the US intervened in the Serbian/Bosnian conflict, two opposing veterans run into one another in the mountains of Georgia. One of them, American Colonel Benjamin Ford (De Niro) has become a recluse, living out his days away from his son (Ventimiglia) and his family, but bears a constant reminder of the war by way of the shrapnel still lodged in his leg. The other, Serbian soldier Emil Kovac (Travolta), initially seems friendly, but soon shows his true intentions.
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Heat

Most crime films tend to pick a side early on, focusing on a ‘means to an end’ band of criminals thieving because they have to, or a team of patriotic, all-American supercops able to match their never-ending machine gun clips with a limitless supply of one liners, but Michael Mann’s Heat, a remake of his own 1989 made for TV movie L.A. Takedown, takes a different path, giving Robert De Niro’s gang of seasoned thieved and Al Pacino’s police squad equal screen time, equal motivation and similar levels of compassion, so you get to decide who you want to win. Though the two main characters; De Niro’s master thief Neil McCauley and Pacino’s dogged detective Vincent Hanna are sworn enemies, they are still two sides of the same coin, separated by their own opinions of the law, but brought together by a deep mutual respect. Neither one is the villain of the film, there are more than enough scumbags among the supporting player to take that role, yet neither is necessarily the hero, although in the end it’s Pacino who grabs the most heroic moments.
Surrounded by an incredible ensemble cast (deep breath: Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo, Dennis Haysbert, Natalie Portman, Xander Berkeley, Hank Azaria, Jon Voight, Jeremy Piven, Mykelti Williamson, William Fichtner, Tom Noonan, Ted Levine, Ashley Judd), some perfectly choreographed set pieces (the opening truck heist and mid film bank robbery/street shootout) and ability to show the effect their chosen lifestyles has had on these characters and their personal lives, or lack thereof, this is a tremendous film, even if it does give in to the occasional cliché, but these can be forgiven for the fact that they use weapons that actually, from time to time, need reloading.
Choose film 9/10

Midnight Run

From its cheesy logo, synth-heavy score and buddy-movie premise, Midnight Run could have easily been lost amid the flotilla of similar films released in the 80s, but its multi-faceted plot, quick-fire dialogue and outstanding performances from leads Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin set this apart from the rest. De Niro plays Jack Walsh, an ex-cop turned bounty hunter on the hunt for Grodin’s Charles ‘the Duke’ Mardukas. Initially this looks like it’ll be a cat and mouse chase film, with Walsh spending the majority of the screen time hunting his prey, but after tracking him down fairly early on, the film becomes more of a road movie, as Walsh has five days to get the Duke from New York to Los Angeles, with the FBI, the mob and a rival bounty hunter all after the Duke for themselves.
De Niro is at his light-hearted comic best, just watch him practicing flashing a stolen FBI badge, and Grodin is a delight as Walsh’s polar opposite talkative Robin Hood figure, stealing from criminals and giving to charity. Other comic touches and performances and well played, from the beleaguered FBI officer Alonso Mosely, the mobster who seems to think the whole job is a bit of a holiday, and the inept bounty hunter Marvin and Joe Pantoliano’s increasingly irate bail bondsman. No-one does screaming anger quite as well as Pantoliano. This is a little known gem, those I watched it with had never heard of it, let alone seen it, but every one of them loved the film, and it’s worth a watch for the litmus configuration scene alone, Grodin seriously needs to be in more films.
Choose film 8/10