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Wrestler, The
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by Mel Valentin

"Mickey Rourke, in his fourth or fifth comeback, scores."
4 stars

Darren Aronofsky’s latest film ("The Fountain", "Requiem for a Dream," "Pi"), "The Wrestler" arrives in North American movie theaters with bucketfuls of buzz, thanks to early reviews from the Toronto International Film Festival and the Golden Lion award from the Venice Film Festival. Written by Robert D. Siegel, a former staff writer on "The Onion," "The Wrestler" is the kind of character-driven drama suited for an actor desperate to reclaim late-career respect and admiration after his own prolonged fall from grace. Which, of course, is where Mickey Rourke, an actor once considered among the best (or least among the most charismatic) of his generation, comes in. True to expectations, Rourke gives the performance of his (late) career. Unfortunately, he’s let down by Siegel’s uneven, underwritten screenplay.

Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Rourke), a longtime professional wrestler on the slow, inevitable downside of his career, can’t give up wrestling, even if it means taking low-paying gigs at lightly attended matches on the independent or semi-pro circuit or working part-time at the local supermarket as a manual laborer. Once, long ago, wrestling fans adored Robinson as a demigod among mere mortals. But most of those fans that since moved on from their obsession with bigger-than-life fantasy figures or live-action superheroes to more ordinary, mundane concerns (e.g., work, family, team sports). While most of his fans have moved on, Randy can’t. Without their adoration, he has to face the brutal, uncompromising reality that leaves him with few options, none of them good. Randy is a broken-down wrestler hanging on to rapidly fading memories of (faux) glory.

Randy defines himself by the wrestling character he’s played to diminishing returns for more than two decades. He still keeps his dyed blond hair long, keeps himself tanned year round, and works out religiously (with a little help from his friendly neighborhood steroid dealer). Inside the ring, he’s whole again (or as whole as he’ll ever be). Outside the ring, he’s incomplete, a shadow of his former self, a man struggling with a lifetime of personal failure and a profession that no longer has a place for him, except at the margins on the independent circuit. But he almost loses that when he suffers a debilitating heart attack after a particularly strenuous wrestling match involving barbed wire, broken glass, and a staple gun. After an emergency bypass, Randy’s doctor warns him against reentering the ring.

Without wrestling, without the adoration of fans, however, Randy can barely function. His attempts to romance his favorite stripper, Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), generally end with her reminding him he’s just a customer. Randy, however, takes her up on her suggestion to reconcile (or at least try to reconcile) with his college-age daughter, Stephanie Robinson (Evan Rachel Wood). But the lure of one more wrestling match against his one-time foe, the Ayatollah (Ernest Miller), a.k.a. Bob the used-car salesman, proves to be a temptation too difficult for Randy to resist. He wants to bask, one more time (and one more time after that) in the expectant, upturned faces of his once adoring fans, even if it means losing his life.

With his scarred face and hypertrophied, tattooed-covered body, it’s hard to imagine a Hollywood actor better suited to the role of a down-and-definitely-out wrestler than Mickey Rourke. For Rourke, Randy “The Ram” Robinson fits him like a sequined glove. Randy is broken and bowed (as opposed to unbowed) and Rourke is too. With his heavily lidded, rheumy eyes, battered face, and awkward body language, Rourke embodies Randy’s bitterness, his disappointment, his wounded vulnerability, and his desire to reclaim his former (faux) glory inside the wrestling ring, if only for one more brief, transcendent moment. Yes, it’s as award-worthy or at least nomination-worthy as the early reports out of Venice and Toronto indicated.

While there isn’t a false note in the supporting cast, there is in Siegel’s screenplay, a screenplay that leans heavily on sports drama clichés of the over-the-hill athlete, especially in the scenes between Randy and his daughter, and Cassidy’s characterization as a stripper and mother with a soft heart for Randy. Where Siegel’s screenplay excels, however, is in the scenes that pick up on the camaraderie between the wrestlers, some of whom are fierce opponents inside the ring. True to a promised pared down aesthetic for "The Wrestler," Aronofsky relies almost exclusively on a Steadicam camera to follow Randy around (often from behind) as he tries to make it one day, one wrestling match, at a time.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17869&reviewer=402
originally posted: 12/25/08 10:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/24/18 Jamie brianorndorf's review says it all.gorgeously written, the film is just unforgettable. 5 stars
9/16/17 morris campbell boring overrated crap 1 stars
3/04/15 stanley welles a trite, gloomy and ridiculously unpleasant film with a cliched ending 2 stars
9/01/10 Barbara Leaf Excellent movie but go to see Mickey Rourke at his best. Stunning ending. 5 stars
1/19/10 art IT TAKE IT BACK FOLKS!,EXCELLENT movie,rourke is superb,ditto forevan rachelwood 5 stars
11/28/09 Flounder The best film of 2008 5 stars
8/18/09 Dr.Lao Not exactly imaginative, but very well told story 4 stars
7/20/09 MP Bartley Rourke is remarkable in a by the numbers story. 4 stars
5/03/09 R Lan A very good film. Micky Rourke deserved all the acclaim he received. 4 stars
5/02/09 Monday Morning Love Mickey, but this film is way overrated. Didn't do much for me. 3 stars
3/21/09 james obrien whats all the fuss it good but 3 stars
3/02/09 jcjs33 Mickey Mickey Mickey Marisa Marisa Marisa..real, raw, touching wow acting, delightful 5 stars
2/24/09 malcolm an old ECW fan says: brilliant performances, but not terribly original 4 stars
2/17/09 mr.mike Rourke brilliantly makes great acting look easy. 4 stars
2/15/09 Derkerdog A once in a lifetime performance from Rourke. Heartbreaking 5 stars
2/11/09 Kathleen I really like this review! The film was good too! 4 stars
2/09/09 Brian Marisa Tomei is really the unsung hero of this movie, a beautiful role and a beautiful body 5 stars
2/05/09 Alejandro Sosa I thought this film was an insanely truthful take on the wrestling industry, touching! 4 stars
2/02/09 Mark R Absolutely superb. A must-see flick. 5 stars
2/02/09 Suzz stunning acting; wonderful script; a film for the heart 5 stars
1/28/09 troy420 what movie did FrankNFurter watch one star for one brain cell! 5 stars
1/26/09 krank 4 the best movie I have ever seen, Mickey Rourke is so completely authentic. 5 stars
1/25/09 Flounder One of the best films of the year. Earns its emotional payoffs without schmaltz 5 stars
1/25/09 Samantha Pruitt very real and well acted, he makes the character come to life 5 stars
1/22/09 Luisa Very touching and raw. Great acting from Rourke and Tomei. 5 stars
1/18/09 K. Sear An entertaining character study that may signal a new Aronofsky era. 4 stars
1/14/09 FrankNFurter Rourke is hideously repugnant. And so is this film. 1 stars
1/11/09 ravenmad I've never been so moved by a film. It's raw, vulnerable, and human. 5 stars
1/10/09 Lee peaceful, rich, layered, genuine, sucks you in to tell one story out of a million 5 stars
1/05/09 the bride brilliant review, best movie of 2008, best actor oscar assured 5 stars
1/03/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Career consumption every 20+ something can relate to 5 stars
12/25/08 Greg Ursic Rourke gives the comeback performance of the year! 5 stars
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  17-Dec-2008 (R)
  DVD: 21-Apr-2009


  DVD: 21-Apr-2009

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