Friday, 17 November 2017

The feature films of Martin Scorsese reviewed and ranked by a mook

After giving Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg a thorough seeing-to on these pages, I decided it was time to have a go on a director I've always admired but never quite loved: Martin Scorsese. Turns out I now love him too, possibly because I've spent much of this year up to my elbows in his unique, troubling and seductive world view. And what better way to celebrate his 75th birthday than to crassly reduce his life's output to a clickbaity listicle, as if the likes of Hugo were in any way comparable to the likes of Mean Streets?

An artist as fascinating as his art, Scorsese is visible throughout his work even when he's not slotting in one of his cheeky cameos. Most of his early films are metaphors for his own eventful trip through the 1970s (meteoric success, crushing failure, depression, drug addiction, dangerously self-destructive behaviour) and watching out for the symbolism in that incandescent phase of his career is half the fun. Then there's all the Catholic imagery, which has provided approximately 90% of my religious education, as well as the frequent self-referential nods to films and filmmaking that remind you that, at his heart, Scorsese is a movie nerd just like us.

Much like GoodFellas, Scorsese's career can be divided into two acts that might be considered a rise and a fall (it's a bitter irony that, chronologically speaking, that film is also the pivot point dividing the two), but even his late period is liberally scattered with moments of peerless brilliance and unexpected achievements - not least his last two movies, which make rather a mockery of my point. Maybe his decision to return to the genre with which he's most frequently (and inaccurately) associated for next year's The Irishman will help determine whether he's heading for Henry Hillish oblivion or Dalai Lama-esque immortality.

So wipe the ragù off your chin and the coke off your philtrum as we take a long, hot bath in Scorsese sauce from my leastest favouritest to my mostest bestest. And please forgive me for every time I refer to him as "Marty"; it's just that you'd get sick of reading "Scorsese" over and over again, plus he and I are very good pals and on first name terms so it just seems natural.

25.
1997
If Twitter had been around in 1997, "Martin Scorsese's Gandhi" could have been a suggestion in a game of #unlikelydirectors. But that's exactly what Kundun is: Scorsese's least Scorsesish film. Swapping out frenetic camerawork and cutting for stillness and sedate dissolves, violence for non-violence and excess for asceticism, his 17th picture seems to consciously reject almost all his familiar stylistic tropes and regular obsessions, bar spirituality. Obviously you can't criticise it for that, but you can criticise it for being something no other Scorsese film is, which is boring. It looks and sounds stunning (MVPs are, without doubt, Roger Deakins and Philip Glass), but Marty struggles to find much in the way of character in the Dalai Lama, whose serenity and inner peace are at odds with the fascinating conflict raging inside almost every other Scorsese protagonist. The lack of narrative meat renders Kundun more like a sumptuous documentary about 20th century Tibet than the life story of its most famous exile; Scorsese has discussed the difficulty in expressing drama through "inaction as action", and that seems to be the key issue here. A noble gesture but a failed experiment.

24.
1977
If you surgically removed all the joy from La La Land and replaced it with repetitive and overlong scenes of general unpleasantness, the result would resemble this flabby, coke-fuelled act of hubris; the Be Here Now of Martin Scorsese films. A tribute to old school MGM musicals, New York, New York has the tunes (thanks largely to Liza Minnelli's flawless pipes) but crucially forgets to include any likeable characters: Robert De Niro's insecure, lunatic saxophonist Jimmy is a rapey creep prone to bouts of extreme De Niroisms, while Minnelli does her best to bring life to Francine, an initially admirable but eventually pitiable singing doormat. The film almost redeems itself in its final act as Minnelli's frustrated warbler unleashes her talent with the spectacular "Happy Endings" fantasy finale, a clear homage to Singin' In The Rain's "Broadway Melody" detour. The sequence mirrors Scorsese finally allowing his creativity to bust out and alleviate the misery of the preceding two hours, but it's little compensation for having to spend every other scene waiting for De Niro to push the Angry Asshole button, which he does with tedious inevitability and regularity.

23.
2010
The point at which I began to seriously wonder if Scorsese's friendship with Leonardo DiCaprio was doing his films more harm than good, Shutter Island sees the still baby-faced star chronically miscast as the hard-boiled '50s dick who really should have been played by Mark Ruffalo. Even Ruffles couldn't have saved this, though: it's messy, silly and too in thrall to Kubrick and Hitchcock when "a Martin Scorsese picture" would've been just fine. It's clear that Marty feels no kinship with his characters, and his grasp of the plot is so slippery it's like we're watching him edit the film as it plays out. Don't even get me started on the fucking anagrams.

22.
1972
Spending his second film working as a hired gun for Roger Corman, Scorsese does what he can to add spice to this southern fried tale of a girl and her gang in Depression-era Arkansas. The script meanders and the characters are thinly-drawn, but Marty's direction and editing save the film from itself - not least in the spectacularly-choreographed climactic bloodbath. A Bonnie And Clyde wannabe with all the production values a Corman exploitation flick commands (i.e. barely any), Boxcar Bertha bears few of Scorsese's thematic hallmarks beyond a bizarrely incongruous crucifixion scene. His first One For Them, and it shows.

21.
2004
Having spent plenty of time locked away in dark rooms obsessing over old movies himself, you can see why Martin Scorsese might feel some empathy towards Howard Hughes. A maverick who took on the studio system and fought for his personal visions, Hughes could have been a proto-Scorsese if he hadn't shifted his focus from cinema to aviation and pissing into milk bottles. It's a shame, then, that we never really get under the charred skin of The Aviator's Hughes like we do with Marty's more memorable protagonists; DiCaprio works hard but you can tell that it's the actor, not the director, who's really fired up by his subject. Scorsese does glamour and paranoia almost as well here as in GoodFellas, and his edge-of-the-seat brilliance really takes flight in the airborne scenes, but that's not enough to sustain a near-three hour biopic. Hardly a plane wreck, but nor does The Aviator truly soar.

20.
2002
Although Scorsese effectively wound up his Italian-American obsession with Casino, his continued fascination with early mass immigration to the US (and its effect on the formation of his beloved mean streets) led to this shift of focus onto the Irish experience - not that you can tell from the accents, which bounce wildly across the Atlantic in search of a home. It’s a frustrating affair: Scorsese’s storytelling panache escapes him here, crushed under the weight of sumptuous costume and production design despite the best efforts of Daniel Day-Lewis’ unforgettable portrayal of literal O.G., Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting.

A straightforward revenge yarn set against a historically fascinating background, Gangs Of New York loses momentum and focus as it lumbers into its bloated, unnecessary third hour. The script throws in a few too many political complications when we’d rather see more of the effect Bill’s magnetic personality has on Leonardo DiCaprio’s resolve to gut him like a pig, and the Civil War and Draft Riot references with which Scorsese tries to make a point end up confusing matters instead. Still, there’s fun to be had seeing if Bill - a racist, nativist lunatic in a delicately poised position of power who wants to Make America Great and is hated by Leonardo DiCaprio - reminds you of any other awful bastards in the US right now.

19.
1993
Between the twin excesses of Cape Fear and Casino sits this uncharacteristically restrained entry in the Scorsese canon. Trading bullets and bastards for bonnets and bustles seemed like an improbable move at the time, but closer inspection of The Age Of Innocence reveals plenty of Marty’s usual preoccupations: a conflicted, tempted male protagonist; familial loyalty; New York City; fetishised food and a near total failure of men to comprehend women.

Like Michelle Pfeiffer swanning through the uptight high society of 1870s New York in a blood red dress, Scorsese brazenly foregrounds cinematic technique in a traditionally sedate genre. Irises in and out, blatant metaphorical cutaways and bold use of silence should keep costume dramaphobes from nodding off and Scorsesophiles delighted. The rituals and corset-tight social customs of the setting are anthropologically examined in forensic detail, but this richness leaves the strongest aftertaste in a film that should also be drowning in Brief Encounter-levels of repressed sexual tension. Daniel Day-Lewis’ removal of one of Pfeiffer’s gloves is as erotic as it gets (tbf it is pretty hot stuff), and his forbidden yearning for her never quite connects like it should. The final scene gave my heart a solid prod, but if I’d cared more about the film’s quietly simmering love triangle it could have ripped it clean out and stamped on it with an exquisitely-buckled boot.

18.
1982
No doubt innovative in its skewering of celebrity culture in 1982, The King Of Comedy now feels hamstrung by both its future and its past. Reality TV and YouTube have rendered the story of Rupert Pupkin's early-stage X Factor wannabe-slash-sociopath quaint and outdated, while six years previously Scorsese made the same point about the insanity of celebrity in a single pan across a handful of newspaper cuttings announcing Travis Bickle's unlikely ascent to hero status. De Niro and Jerry Lewis are a terrific against-type double act though, and Marty's inability to keep himself offscreen is visible in both Pupkin's desperate outsider and Jerry Langford's superstar all too familiar with the downside of fame. All that said, the hardest image to forget may be Sandra Bernhard tottering wildly down the street in high heels and underoos, in futile pursuit of her recently-absconded kidnap victim.

17.
2006
Scorsese continues the migration of his interest from Italian-Americans to Irish-Americans that began with Gangs Of New York, but while every Irish surname and Boston suburb mentioned here evokes a real sense of place, it never feels as intrinsically connected to the story as in his Little Italy-set adventures. There's a strong Catholic depiction of conscience, of course (especially in the case of Leonardo DiCaprio's guilt-laden cop), but The Departed is far more interested in repeatedly disorientating the audience than examining what really makes these characters behave the way they do.

It's impossible not to enjoy this cast reading this dialogue though, and the whole Face/Off role-reversal theme is fun, if a little over-complicated compared to Infernal Affairs, the Hong Kong hit on which this is based. Credibility is stretched to breaking point at times - none of Boston's finest detectives seem to notice Matt Damon phoning his "dad" every time someone tells him something; Damon's unwavering loyalty to Jack Nicholson's mob boss is never fully justified; Nicholson doesn't need DiCaprio so it's ridiculous to keep the only ex-cop on his crew on board when he knows there's a rat in the organisation - and the final shot is the very definition of a hat on a hat (or, perhaps more accurately, a rat on a rat), but Scorsese's energetic direction stops any of that mattering too much.

16.
1988
Eschewing the spectacle of traditional Biblical epics as much out of financial as narrative necessity, Scorsese's Jesus flick deliberately humanises literature's second-most famous magician by casting him as equal parts human and divine. I'm not sure the struggle between the two is entirely successfully conveyed over the film's 163 minutes, and if it hadn't been outlined in a caption at the beginning I wonder if I would have fully grasped what the film was about. Still, as a committed atheist, I've learned more about religion from Martin Scorsese than anyone else, and The Last Temptation Of Christ is at least good enough to hold even my sand-and-sandals-sceptic attention. It helps, of course, that Scorsese's JC continues a throughline that began with Who's That Knocking At My Door's JR, and is therefore both ancestor and descendant of the likes of Mean Streets' Charlie, Travis Bickle and Jake La Motta. The Noo Yawk accents, Harvey Keitel's hair and some weird casting are a little distracting (although Pontius Bowie is wonderful), but it's genuinely helpful and educational to see God's possession of Jesus as a curse to be wrestled with and mastered as much as it is a gift.

15.
1989
Scorsese's entry in the New York Stories triptych is easily the best, although it only really has Woody Allen's Oedipus Wrecks as competition; Francis Coppola's wretched Life Without Zoë sits in the middle of the anthology like a shit in a sandwich. Life Lessons is loosely adapted from Dostoevsky's The Gambler but feels typically autobiographical: the artist (Nick Nolte) is one of many Scorsese substitutes, while his muse (Rosanna Arquette) might represent New York itself - frustrating, fickle and irresistible. Marty's obsession with the nuts and bolts of filmmaking translates here into loving close-ups of paint and painting, thrillingly shot and edited at a breakneck pace not unlike his own work ethic. And in self-deprecatory fashion, he seems keen to point out that being a great artist is no substitute for being a good person.

14.
1974
Smart-mouthed mom takes smart-mouthed kid on a tour of shitty motels in an attempt to reach the misremembered Sirkian utopia of her youth, eventually realising that the hand she's been dealt is all she's got to play with. A comedy drama of compromised dreams and diner philosophy, Alice skilfully avoids soapy melodrama, painting a believable picture of real women making a surprising success / complete hash of modern life. In a body of work characterised by alpha males and downtrodden women, Harvey Keitel's cartoon lunkhead and Kris Kristofferson's limp hunk pale noticeably in comparison to Ellen Burstyn's richly textured heroine, Diane Ladd's wonderfully caustic waitress and Alfred Lutter's precocious pre-teen who specialises in torture by shit jokes.

13.
2011
An obsession with what Marty calls "the machinery of creativity" keeps the gears of Hugo turning, which means there's more sentimentality for lost films than for a desperate orphan living in a station - but then this is Scorsese, not Spielberg. The director's valentine to early cinema is bursting with detail, even to the point of adding visible dust particles everywhere as if it's being projected in a musty old fleapit, and references to Méliès, Lloyd, Keaton and Fairbanks bump up against Hitchcock (the vignettes featuring the station's amorous inhabitants evoke a less murdery Rear Window) and even Scorsese himself, with the inspiration for GoodFellas' final shot sneaking in there.

Nowhere is the film's real love story more richly felt than in the recreation of Méliès' glass studio and the depiction of his unique method of fusing ideas and technology to make magic: a combination on which all movies, books, art and poetry rely. Hugo is hardly one to keep the toddlers quiet for two hours (it could do with a few more gags for a start), but it is a heartfelt reminder that stories are gifts to be shared and preserved, no matter how trivial they may seem or how occasionally badly acted they may be.

12.
1986
One of those genre films that Scorsese will insist on making way more exciting than it deserves to be, not least by splitting it into three genres: sports movie, road movie and existential crisis movie. There's plenty of both Scorsese and Paul Newman in Fast Eddie Felson, the former precocious talent whose best days appear to be behind him, and more than a smattering of Tom Cruise in Vincent Lauria, the irritating and irritatingly good punk kid set to take on the world. The middle act drags a little as Vince takes forever to stop being thicker than his own hair, but you're never far from another onslaught of trick shots in the thrillingly-staged pool games. Nobody shoots pool like Marty: reminiscent of Raging Bull's fights, these ball-busting interludes are so much fun they threaten to overwhelm the quiet machinations going on behind Newman's massive shades. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio rounds out the weird family unit with a decent role that should have gone further, but in the games Scorsese plays, women rarely get a decent break.

11.
1999
As perfect double bills go, you'd be hard-pressed to beat pairing Taxi Driver with this, its crazier, funnier cousin. Another burnt-out shell of a man spends his nights cruising the infernal trenches of New York for a living, seeking redemption through salvation; this time Scorsese (with Taxi Driver co-conspirator Paul Schrader) uses the question of who needs saving the most to drive the film to a less cynical, more serene climax, but has a shitload more fun on the way.

Scorsese doesn't quite let Nic Cage go full Nic Cage here, instead allowing his ambulance-driving counterparts John Goodman, Ving Rhames and Tom Sizemore to provide the sirens-blaring lunacy that offsets his character's spiritual crisis. Patricia Arquette manages to hold her own despite being saddled with the straight work, but as usual there's no question whose film this is: only Scorsese could devise those insanely shot and edited connecting sequences of the ambulance bouncing between calls, set to one of his most enjoyable mixtape soundtracks. Bringing Out The Dead’s predecessor Kundun may have uncharacteristically flatlined, but this was just the defibrillator hit required to jolt the old Scorsese back to life.

10.
1991
Marty goes full Hitchcock for what was both his first remake and his first truly mainstream, straightforward genre picture: Saul Bass' titles, Bernard Herrmann's music (respectfully reworked by Elmer Bernstein) and an unambiguously bad bad guy are all umbilically connected to the master, with Robert De Niro staring out of that Fourth Of July parade as if daring you not to think of Robert Walker's Strangers On A Train tennis-match glare. Scorsese brings along his usual baggage of sexual guilt, seductive temptation of evil, and salvation and redemption themes, but they're less effective when restricted by the disciplines of the psychological thriller.

Cape Fear is still exponentially daft fun though, with De Niro spitting ham as the Terminatoresque Cady, a superhuman angel of vengeance who absolutely will not stop, ever, simply because he's the unshakeable embodiment of the Bowdens' collective sins. The film feels like Scorsese kicking back and having fun after putting everything into GoodFellas, but he evidently struggled with the genre restrictions; you have to wonder about the parallel universe where, as was intended, Steven Spielberg directed this (a much more obvious fit) and Scorsese tackled Schindler's List.

9.
1985
With Scorsese frustrated by months of stalled attempts to make The Last Temptation Of Christ, it's not hard to understand his kinship with the hapless hero of After Hours. A decent guy with a straightforward goal thwarted at every turn by irritating and inexplicably obstructive people, unfortunate loser Paul Hackett is Scorsese if his life were a black comedy: "What do you want from me?!" he bellows at an uncaring God. "I'm just a word processor for Christ's sake!" Even Griffin Dunne's unkempt monobrow is suspiciously familiar.

Bouncing uncontrollably between a series of increasingly absurd encounters in the bars, diners and apartments of nocturnal Soho, Hackett is figuratively trapped in a living version of Munch's The Scream before voluntarily succumbing to literal imprisonment in a cheap facsimile. Scorsese avoids the broad comedy of near-contemporary single-night farces like Blind Date and Adventures In Babysitting, choosing instead to keep the audience permanently on edge with his trademark restless camera. The oddness is off-putting at first, but repeat viewings reveal this to be a smart, original entry in a canon already heaving with them.

8.
1995
The lust for excess that was born in Mean Streets and bloomed in GoodFellas reaches full maturity here, reflected in every gaudy costume and shiny trinket over which the camera lingers for slightly longer than is necessary. A love letter to a Las Vegas run by good old-fashioned murderous mobsters instead of soulless (but equally nefarious) entertainment corporations, Casino celebrates ambition and mourns the second death of the wild west. In this uniquely American tale, the idea of immigrants from the east seeking success in the west must have appealed to Scorsese, a New Yorker who’s never felt comfortable as a Hollywood player. Those deep-rooted fears of failure are thoroughly worked out here, and it’s comforting to see Marty allow his protagonist to survive his story doing the only thing he knows, even if it’s on a smaller scale than he might prefer.

To sustain a three-hour epic with this kind of energy is remarkable in mainstream Hollywood; few directors could manage it, and even Scorsese couldn’t do it without Thelma Schoonmaker at his side. As delirious as Casino is, though, it suffers in the unavoidable comparison to GoodFellas that Scorsese invites - it’s nowhere near as much fun as its predecessor, and while Ace Rothstein’s rise is almost as vertiginous as Henry Hill’s, his fall is a protracted and less dramatic experience, over-punctuated by extended bouts of Sharon Stone shrieking. The religious metaphors are still fun to spot though: Stone’s Ginger, for example, is the Eve to Ace’s Adam (with James Woods’ sleazy pimp as the serpent), ensuring the inevitable fall of man teased in the title sequence. Casino’s moral is a familiar one too - “That’s that,” laments Rothstein after warning that greed and ambition are no guarantees for happiness - but it's unusual for Scorsese's protagonists to be so self-aware. Could it be that they’re finally learning? (Spoiler: No.)

7.
1967
The cinema of Martin Scorsese emerged fully-formed in his first feature, a ratatat morality tale of small-time, movie-obsessed Italian-American hoods. Its (and, by definition, Scorsese's) first shot - a statuette of the Madonna and child, watching over Mama Scorsese as she bakes meat loaf in her kitchen - looms over the film as largely as it does over Marty's entire canon, and the subsequent pop-soundtracked street violence is a scrappy taster of things to come (not least Mean Streets, of which this is a fascinating prototype). Shot and edited with a New Wave swagger, Who's That Knocking At My Door shows off its director's innate understanding of pacing, structure, tension and skin-pricklingly effective use of music. It frequently looks like a student film (a rogue boom mic makes a prominent appearance in an early scene) simply because it is, but Scorsese is the one schooling the whole of American cinema with this fierce, fiery debut.

6.
2013
As every scene escalates towards more explosive hedonism than the last, Scorsese implicates his audience in the on-screen awfulness by rendering it so breathlessly entertaining you can’t help but be simultaneously appalled and entranced. Tapping into the same twisted mindset that keeps us hungry for Donald Trump's latest abhorrent mouth-shart (consider how easily the line "You can do anything… grab 'em by the pussy!" would slot in to Leonardo DiCaprio's shit-eating voiceover), Marty knows we'll accept Jordan Belfort's wealth-derived immunity despite his vacuum of moral decency because no matter how much we want him to come a cropper we enjoy our own outrage too much. The Wolf Of Wall Street is an eye-popping late-career surprise from the then-71-year-old director, who is rarely more energised than when telling a thinly-veiled version of his own rollercoaster rise and fall in the late ‘70s, and as a bonus produces the best lead performance of all five Scorsese / DiCaprio collaborations. Plus there is totally a chimp in a nappy on roller skates.

5.
1973
Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are Catholicism, ultraviolence and the Rolling Stones, Mean Streets is Scorsese's youth splashed across the screen in deathly blacks and hellish reds. The documentary style sells the Little Italy setting so hard you can almost taste the tamayto sauce, while Keitel's Charlie is Marty's first fully-realised character: a low-level hood whose ambitions and conscience (represented by his opposing role models - his caporegime uncle and St Francis of Assisi) are in eternal conflict. Not helping in any way at all is Johnny Boy, played with such blazing heat by De Niro that it's a miracle Scorsese got him to fit inside this authentic little family drama. Evocative and original, this is effectively Ground Zero for both the Scorsese brand (notwithstanding Who's That Knocking At My Door) and decades of pale imitations to come.

4.
2017
If you're as ignorant and dismissive about religious faith as I am, Silence is an educational marvel, delicately explaining and questioning its themes as it journeys further into its own heart of darkness. Perhaps more crucially though, it's the Rosetta Stone that unlocks much of Martin Scorsese's early work: the moral and spiritual dilemmas faced by Who's That Knocking At My Door's JR, Mean Streets' Charlie or even that guy from The Last Temptation Of Christ gain a vital clarity in the light of everything that Fathers Rodrigues, Garupe and Ferreira experience here. On its own terms, meanwhile, Silence is an outstanding entry in both the Scorsese canon and modern mainstream cinema; a reassuring reminder that its director remains dependably unpredictable and creatively untouchable.

3.
1976
Travis Bickle's Dantean journey through a rotten Big Apple is perhaps Scorsese's first film (of many) to draw on a thousand cultural influences and still come up with something staggeringly original. Channeling everything from Dostoyevsky to Hitchcock, Taxi Driver is a unique, hallucinatory tale of shattering loneliness and misguided vengeance; the story of a man gliding disgustedly through a world so sick and ungodly that you'd think it was 2017 or something. From Bernard Herrmann's schizophrenic opening theme to that final, possibly figmental fare, Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader command a restless, nagging din of inscrutable characters and mysterious stylings to accompany Bickle's descent from amusing social awkwardness to ferocious, guns-blazing psychopathy. And while he's always been a collaborative filmmaker, the unholy trinity of Scorsese, Schrader and Robert De Niro hungrily feed off each other here; the product of their union an unsettling neon nightmare.

2.
1990
The entry-level gangsters of Who's That Knocking At My Door and Mean Streets may have grown up and become more powerful, but Martin Scorsese's wiseguys never rise high enough that they don't have to worry about looking over their shoulder. The paranoia of that world bleeds out of every bullet hole in GoodFellas, where something as innocent and everyday as a potential flat tyre could erupt into grisly violence at any second.

Scorsese's mid-career masterpiece is almost a fantasy autobiography for its director: set in a parallel universe where he actually joined the life he only ever observed from the sidelines as a kid, GoodFellas is shot and cut like a 145-minute trailer for a morality tale about the dangers of temptation, excess and titanic drug use - all of which he was only too familiar with. As such it also plays as a searing indictment of the avarice of the '80s, and Scorsese lures you into that world with glamour and privilege before pulling back the curtain to reveal a total void of decency behind the overwhelming richness of detail.

Breathlessly entertaining and unconventionally structured (it's essentially two acts, comprising Henry Hill's meteoric rise and dizzying fall over a series of short, elliptically-edited scenes), GoodFellas feels like the culmination of Phase One of Scorsese's output; the picture he'd been building to since film school. A handful of his movies since have come close, but this would be the Lufthansa heist of his career: spectacular, audacious and long-investigated.

1.
1980
Pummelled by the reaction to New York, New York and on the ropes following a near-fatal drug overdose, Scorsese puts himself into therapy with Raging Bull: a bruising comeback fight that spatters the director's own self-destructive tendencies across the canvas in stark, unforgiving monochrome. De Niro's Jake La Motta attracts violence wherever he goes, but never is it more focused than in the peerless, abstract boxing sequences, directed with woozy expressionism and a Catholic's obsession for brutal penance. Almost all Scorsese's protagonists are sinners, but La Motta might be the only one who embraces all seven deadly sins over the course of his story: a victim of his own wrath, lust and envy whose shameless pride and greed for success eventually give way to gluttony and sloth. Now that's entertainment.

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