When I was growing up watching professional wrestling on Saturday afternoons was a ritual in our neighborhood. All of the “guys” on the street watched; we all had our favorites, the good guys, the bad guys and those in between. So The Wrestler (2008) the much ballyhooed comeback vehicle for Mickey Rourke (Body Heat, Nine ½ Weeks, Wild Orchid) was a must see.
Directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Fountain, Requiem For a Dream) The Wrestler chronicles the failing fortunes of Randy 'The Ram' Robinson a once successful professional wrestler who now lives alone in a rented trailer, works part-time at a super market and wrestles at small venues on the weekends.
Having alienated his family years ago—principally his daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Ward ~ Profiler, Once and Again, Thirteen)—by spending all his time on the road, Ram is a very lonely guy. The little one-on-one human contact he does have comes from Cassidy (Marisa Tomei ~ My Cousin Vinny, In The Bedroom, Rescue Me) a dancer at the strip club he frequents. He wants a relationship outside the club, but she demurs; something about not dating the clientele.
But after suffering a heart attack Randy starts to rethink his life and the decisions he’s made and seeks to turn his life around and reconcile with his daughter.
I did not recognize Mickey Rourke, seriously. The physical changes in the man are nothing short of astounding; oh the joys of plastic surgery and human growth hormone! But I am sure everyone has made that same observation. Be that as it may Rourke turns in an outstanding performance as a man sliding painfully into the sunset of his less than golden life.
The wrestling moves and action sequences took me back to yesteryear. Yes, I have long since given up the ritual, but I can still remember the signature moves, the back and forth of the opponents seeking the upper hand. The move captures that magic all over again with startling realism. Ram’s body truly dies take a beating, but he keeps coming back for more. He knows wrestling is all there is for him; life has lost its meaning outside the comfortable cocoon.
And therein lies the problem with The Wrestler, Ram is not smart and neither is the movie. The movie is predictable and that makes it less entertaining, and the character less likeable. I wanted to feel sorry for Ram, and for a while I was rooting for him, but towards the end he lets me down by his failed attempt at redemption and I wrote him off.
Rourke’s performance was not the issue, it’s the script, but I supposed I expected too much; I wanted a feel good ending and one is not forthcoming. Rourke’s stellar performance is bolstered by that of Ms. Tomei who turns in a risky, edgy, noteworthy performance and the aging single mother/exotic dancer who wants to be with Ram, but can’t find a way because she has to make a living.
In the end The Wrestler constantly holds out the hope of redemption, even as it obscures any concept of what that redemption might look like. Ram is a simple man whose life has been sharply etched by his Randy 'The Ram' Robinson persona. He is incapable of getting out his own way long enough for redemption to take firmly take hold; typical (disappointing) human behavior. Perhaps after all the hype surrounding The Wrestler, I expected more.
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age
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Also appearing in the film are actual professional wrestlers: Blue Meanie, Johnny Valiant, Ref Hanson, Tommy Rotten, Andrew Anderson, Brolly, Danny Inferno, Necro Butcher, Mike "RAGE" Miller, Paul E. Normus (who died in early 2009), Nick Berk, DJ Hyde, Havoc, Johnny Mangus, Billy Dream, Eric Cobian, Sabian, Nate Hatred, Sugga, L.A. Smooth, Whacks, Devon Moore, The Funky Samoans, Jay Lethal, Jim Powers, Kid USA (as Randy's stunt double), Ron Killings, Claudio Castagnoli, Romeo Roselli, John Zandig, Chuck Taylor and Nigel McGuinness.The Wrestler is a 2008 drama film directed by Darren Aronofsky, written by Robert D. Siegel, and starring ...