Here's another film that I have only recently got around to watching. Long story short - a film I liked, but not one that lived up to my expectations.
STUFF I LIKED:
That it was shot in black and white. BUT also that the lighting was appropriate for black and white. I cannot even begin to get across how important this is. There are any number of films and TV shows that have done "the black and white one", but even when they get the directorial style right they nearly always fail to get the lighting correct/authentic (case in point the X-Files' Post Modern Prometheus).
The performances were excellent throughout. Although I am wondering if this was the start of Joe Pesci playing himself.
The fights all have a brutal feel to them. Partly this is the result of foley work, but its also the result of the unique camera work and makeup jobs. That being said, for true brutality in boxing, check out the film about the Ali-Frazier fights, the third of which was just hellacious.
STUFF I DIDN'T LIKE:
It is a little churlish to critisise a biopic for having a meandering plot so I won't do that. The story is what it is because of real life. I didn't like the final scene though. I didn't find it open ended so much as perfunctory. I would have prefered for the film to end with scene in the prison which had more of a sense of closure (particularly thematically).
There were few characters with whom I was able to feel any real empathy. Vicki Lamotta is perhaps the main exception to this, but even that is more of a feeling of sympathy rather than empathy, certainly the character is not in of herself likeable.
Anyway, its stylistically brilliant and is a very good film, I just don't see it as an out an out classic.