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The Wrestler

Darren Aronofsky's 2008 dramatic film about a down and out professional wrestler.

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4 ½ Stars: ONE More Jump OFF the TOP ROPE!!

  • Feb 1, 2009

Stories that delved into the inner human spirit and tales about redemption have been beloved by critics since anyone can remember. Small wonder, since films that exhibit pure humanity can undoubtedly touch the hearts of audiences--it is a premise that is both fascinating and quite easy to relate to. Inspired by the documentary "Beyond the Mat", director Darren Aronofsky's "The WRESTLER" is a film with a lot of things to say, and may well be Mickey Rourke's best performance; this role may indeed serve as his own redemption as his own character's--Randy the "Ram".

Randy (Mickey Rourke) is an aging, washed out wrestler whose days of glory and fame are over. Now wrestling in a small circuit that is mostly staged in small or large auditoriums, Randy is having some difficulties keeping up with the younger talent. To keep up, he uses an abundance of pain killers and strength enhancers. One day, after performing in a "hardcore match", Randy suffers a heart attack which causes him to undergo a bypass surgery and ends his weekend wrestling career. Randy is now all alone, and needs to make a living. Afraid of being alone, he befriends a beautiful stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) and tries to rekindle his relationship with his daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood). Working in a small supermarket, Randy tries to make ends meet. However, it is difficult for a man to change overnight and Randy imperils his one chance to redeem himself…or is it him accepting his fate?

Mickey Rourke is an underrated actor. I remember him in his younger days in "9 ½ weeks", and his most recent appearance in the awesome "Sin City". He always has that signature raspy voice that gives him a lot of character. In this film, you will hardly recognize him (as in Sin City), his face is so beaten up much like a boxer, his eyes display a feeling of dread and sadness as to what his future might bring. Rourke is much older and he seems poised to give this film everything he has left in his performance. "The Wrestler's" main strength will have to come from Rourke himself. There is quite a good number of touching moments most notably his teary-eyed conversation with his daughter, and the film's final act. Rourke shines through, and delivers in fleshing out his character.

This film may well be a character study of a washed out wrestler, but the film also offers something very significant and serves as the soul of the film. Randy's attempts to begin a new relationship with another "outcast" of society--a stripper (played by Beauteous Marisa Tomei). Their developing romance is fully realized as these two have a lot in common. They made mistakes in some of their deeds in life, now they are both middle-aged and they fear the future. Randy is desperate not to be alone and Cassidy is being careful not to commit another mistake, why would she date someone who obviously is almost same? If you're a screw-up, why would you want another screw-up to share your life with? It was ingenious for Aronofsky to carefully illustrate their similar situations in a subtle manner--both are losing ground each day, Randy's career as a wrestler and Cassidy's days as a stripper are both winding down. Their days of having high returns is just about over, now their careers are bringing a low yield.

The supporting cast is remarkably impressive. However, limited Evan Rachel Wood's screen time was, it serves as a catalyst for the film's final resolution. Wood displays raw frustration and anger in her confrontations with her father. Of course, aside from Rourke, Marisa Tomei is the film's heart. Her performance is indeed quite daring and Oscar-worthy. Tomei's portrayal of a middle-aged stripper is so full of energy and emotional mood. Marisa is an underused actress since she won an Oscar for "My Cousin Vinny". Cassidy is a complex woman, she wants more from her life, but it seems like this is the only choice she can make to support her son. Marisa is alluring and convincing in her portrayal.

The screenplay by Robert Siegel is nearly excellent, it was simple but truly effective in what it was trying to say. There are also some subtle hints that Randy had been grasping to the past--his collection of VHS tapes, an older Nintendo game console, even his stereo all express the idea that he had stood still while time had moved on. It also displays the "brotherhood" outside the ring, younger wrestlers look up to him, and definitely shows him respect. The cinematography by Maryse Alberti is kept simple and intentionally made with a grainy look, to give it a feeling of a documentary. The backdrop is full of nostalgic touches to flesh out its characters-- the old beat up, abandoned beach where Randy takes his daughter, the dark, gloomy bars are all indications that he is a bruised and battered "piece of meat" according to Randy himself.

The film's greatest asset will have to be its simplicity in execution. It is a true piece of life's great stories and Rourke's performance is the film's selling point. The final act is a simple but effective exclamation point that director Aronofsky exudes the film's remarkable message without being overly sentimental. "The Wrestler" is an emotionally involving, compelling piece that displays skill and decorum in its simple storytelling. While the film is a little depressing, it is also very sensitive and sweet that leaves a warm sensation after the end credits have finished.

Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Stars]

movie poster Mickey Rourke as Randy the Ram Marisa Tomei as Cassidy

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July 25, 2010
Yes indeed you know I loved this one, excellent review WP.
June 15, 2009
Well, I finally got around to seeing this and I loved it. I'm hoping that I'll get around to reviewing it within the next month or so.
June 15, 2009
give us a holler when you finally post it. Would love to see a scroll-like review for this fantastic film. Sadly, it didn't get the recognition it deserved...have you seen "Benjamin Button"? It wasn't bad, I thought it was good.
June 15, 2009
I agree about this film... and it will be getting the full Orlok-analytical treatment, though it won't be one of my longer reviews, at least I don't think it will. I did see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and while I did enjoy it, I felt that it was terribly overhyped and that tonally it was a little off balance. Some of the humor undermined the drama and I was disappointed that there wasn't a greater psychological depth to the characters. I gave that film a 3.
February 04, 2009
Thanks, everyone! This was a phenomenal film, so glad I went to see it. Karen, I've been meaning to see Frost/Nixon but I think I'm going for "Taken" for action-thrills. Lingma, it does feel very parallel, which made the film more effective. DesignDude, I agree. Rourke is a good actor and underused. I also think Tomei has also been ignored. Enjoy!
February 01, 2009
This is one I hope to catch in the theater but there are so many out right now that I don't know if I'll be able to get to them all. FROST/NIXON is first on the list. Rourke looks so strange these days, what with all the plastic surgery he's had and in this case it benefits his character.
February 01, 2009
I just saw Mickey Rourke on the Tonight Show the other day. He talked about his struggles of keeping afloat as a forgotten actor. His life story almost seems to parallel the story of the character he plays in this film. Your review was very informative — I'm definitely going to see this at the theatre.
More The Wrestler (2008 film) reviews
review by . August 27, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I gotta find some of Randy's old matches on Collisum Video
One of thing things I learned after following pro wrestling a few years back is what happened to those names I used to hear about all the time like Jake Roberts and Lex Luger.  I never heard about them dying considering what big names they are, and then I learned a bitter truth.  Those big names and they're big lifestyles came crashing down.  Jake Roberts and Lex Luger were the inspirations for the character of Randy "The Ram" Robinson who is the focus of The Wrestler.   …
review by . February 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****      Well, this is rather surprising; Darren Aronofsky directing a sports flick. How about that? So how well does this little stunt pull off? Well, I'll tell you, and believe me; you're going to be surprising. As it turns out, Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" is no stunt at all, but that's not to say that it's the kind of film that you'd expect out of the guy either. Mr. Aronofsky's follow-up to his ambitious, flawed, but indefinitely artsy "The Fountain" proves to …
review by . July 04, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
      THE WRESTLER      There have been films made before about wrestling and by wrestling I mean pro wrestling, but none like this. This film is the portrait of a man who is coming to terms with his own mortality, literally and also for his craft. There have been many things said about this movie but there seems to be one constant, and that is Mickey Rourke's masterful performance. For those who have not seen this I can tell you right now that he was …
Quick Tip by . August 27, 2011
Washed up 80's wrestling superstar copes with his rockstar days long gone and living day to day in a very non glamorous life. Runs the rollercoaster of touching, hard, fun and sad.
review by . July 15, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Yin and Yang
WARNING: This review contains spoilers!      There are certain fundamental aspects of American culture in the 1980s that I found to be, for lack of a better word, repugnant. The crassness of commercialism was everywhere, politics went straight to hell as Reaganites celebrated American Right-wing supremacy, music fans suffered through the pangs of the glam rock movement and the superficiality and the hedonistic excesses that it embraced, and the yuppies on Wall Street were idealized …
Quick Tip by . July 14, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Mickey gives the kind of performance that we all knew he still had in him. Marisa Tomei was equally amazing.
Quick Tip by . July 06, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Powerful movie that depicts the side of wrestling and sports that we may not think about, getting older and dealing with trying to continue doing something you love.
review by . December 28, 2009
This movie was a huge and pleasant surprise for me.  I thought it would be more about the wrestling sport/soapstory.  Instead we get a compelling tale of a man that was so into the wrestling game that he ignored the rest of his life.  Mickey Rourke plays a wrestler nicknamed The Ram, who can no longer persue wrestling so he soon realizes that his "real" life is total misery and he really has nothing outside of wrestling.        Ram tries to rekindle …
review by . December 08, 2009
A Gripping Look into the Lifestyle of Professional Wrestling, but a Little Over Hyped...
Growing up a wrestling fan and knowing the business inside and out, The Wrestler hit home in a lot of ways.  I wasn't just a wrestling fan, I used to idolize these guys and perhaps one day, be one of them.  As I got older and was able to differentiate what was real and what was fake, I felt I was able to connect even more with them and what they go through because of all the inner politics that go on in the industry.  The minute the film started, I was blown away at just how well …
review by . December 13, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Outstanding performances by principles; great supporting cast.      Cons: Predictable; slow in places     The Bottom Line: After all the hype surrounding The Wrestler, I expected more.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. When I was growing up watching professional wrestling on Saturday afternoons was a ritual in our neighborhood.  All of the “guys” on the street …
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About this movie


Robin Ramzinski, ring name Randy "The Ram" Robinson, (Mickey Rourke) is a professional wrestler who was a major star in the 1980s but is now years past his prime and wrestling on the weekends for various independent wrestling promotions in the Elizabeth, New Jersey area. After a show, a promoter proposes a 20th anniversary rematch with his most notable opponent, the Ayatollah (Ernest Miller), who now owns a used car dealership in Arizona. Their first match together sold out Madison Square Garden, and Randy agrees to the rematch, wishfully thinking this high-profile match could help him get back to the top.
  • Mickey Rourke as Randy "The Ram" Robinson/Robin Ramzinski
  • Marisa Tomei as Cassidy / Pam
  • Evan Rachel Wood as Stephanie Ramzinski
  • Todd Barry as Wayne
  • Ernest Miller as Bob / "The Ayatollah"

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 ...
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Director: Darren Aronofsky
Genre: Drama, Romance, Sport
Release Date: December 18, 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Robert D. Siegel
DVD Release Date: April 21, 2009
Runtime: 109 minutes
Studio: Wild Bunch, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Protozoa Pictures
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