The Wrestler

"Extraordinary"

The Wrestler Review


For those who have been following Darren Aronofsky's career since he broke out in 2000 with Requiem for a Dream, his latest work, The Wrestler, might very well come as a bit of a shock. Unlike Requiem and 2006's The Fountain, the film does not garner its power from hyperactive editing (the former) nor grandiose flourishes of the patently ludicrous (the latter). Shot in grainy 16mm by the estimable Maryse Alberti, a cinematographer who has spent the last few years shooting documentaries, The Wrestler realigns Aronofsky as a director concerned with the slow burn of American neo-realism more than hyperactive pseudo-transcendentalism.

It is also the resurrection, renovation, and reinvention of Mickey Rourke in the King Lear of self-reflexive roles. Walking hunched with his long strands of bleached-blonde hair covering his face until he puts it up under a hairnet, revealing an unsightly hearing aid, Rourke's Randy "The Ram" Robinson, an aging legend of the 1980s pro-wrestling boom, walks like a grand warrior just starting to get used to the knife in his back after years of minor shows as a nostalgic draw. After suffering a heart attack, Randy declines an upcoming rematch with his erstwhile nemesis The Ayatollah and tries to clean himself up, taking a weekend shift at the local deli counter, ensuring that his landlord won't evict him from his trailer.

The Ram's step away from the spotlight mean's a step towards a life. A relationship with a stripper named Pam (a stunning Marisa Tomei) offers a mirror for the Ram's addiction to both his physical prowess and his deflated ego, but a short-lived reunion with his neglected daughter Stephanie (Even Rachel Wood) reveals the specter of darker times. After a heartbreaking confessional on the Jersey pier, things begin to look good for father and daughter, whose rocky past is hinted around here, but an inevitable relapse into the life of fame ends that quickly, complete with cocaine and a quickie in a bar bathroom with some primo Jersey trash. "I don't know why I do this" the Ram admits as his daughter severs all ties. Her reply is simple, honest and believable: "Because you are a fuck-up."

"The '90s sucked" Randy muses to Pam at a bar. He's talking about the death of macho music brought on by Kurt Cobain but Rourke himself could be channeling anything from his divorce from Wild Orchid co-star Carré Otis to his ill-fated return to boxing. There have been a few great male lead performances this year: Benicio del Toro in Che, Sean Penn in Milk, Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon, and Philip Seymour Hoffman im Synecdoche, New York spring to mind. But Rourke towers over these performances in terms of sheer prowess. Immensely physical and unfathomably personal, the role of the Ram calls forth decades of bad decisions and psychological bruising for Rourke and he stares deep into his own Bermuda triangle to face the Ram's inability to say goodbye to the mat. His final speech to the cheering masses shakes the very ground the theater is built on.

The Wrestler, like Clint Eastwood's underrated, razor-sharp Gran Torino, is a rare form of critical Americana. Here, Aronofsky's focus and singularity is nothing short of (wait for it) a drop kick to a career many perceived to be adrift in a sea of metaphysical pabulum. Watch the intimacy he gives the scenes between the Ram and his fellow wrestlers, the horror when he confronts an Elk's Lodge full of other retired wrestlers, the fascination given the post-show check-up. Building on Robert Siegel's smart, acute script, Aronofsky lines the physical wreckage with existential dread and a weighing fatalism. Climbing the ropes one final time to deliver the RamJam, his signature move, Randy "The Ram," whose actual name is Robin, channels everything into one moment that haunts modern America. Most of all, it confronts our greatest fear: that no one is watching.

Shoulda watched Beyond the Mat.



The Wrestler

Facts and Figures

Run time: 109 mins

In Theaters: Friday 30th January 2009

Box Office USA: $26.1M

Box Office Worldwide: $44.7M

Budget: $6M

Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Production compaines: Wild Bunch, Top Rope, Saturn Films, Protozoa Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Fresh: 215 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 7.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: Scott Franklin,

Starring: as Randy Robinson, as Cassidy, as Stephanie, as Medic, as Scott Brumberg, Dylan Keith Summers as Necro Butcher, as Lenny, Ernest Miller as The Ayatollah, Gregg Bello as JAPW Promoter Larry Cohen, Donnetta Lavinia Grays as Jen, as Adam, Armin Amiri as Dr. Moayedizadeh

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

Advertisement
City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Free Fire Movie Review

Free Fire Movie Review

Basically a 90-minute shoot-out, there isn't a lot to this movie. British filmmaker Ben Wheatley...

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.