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Overall Rating
4.18

Awesome55.38%
Worth A Look: 23.08%
Average: 12.31%
Pretty Bad: 3.08%
Total Crap: 6.15%

5 reviews, 35 user ratings


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Wrestler, The
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by Martin Schoo

"An excellent performance from Rourke overcomes formulaic scripting"
3 stars

Randy The Ram is a washed up wrestler, and as portrayed by Mickey Rourke, heís an essentially gentle soul. Heís screwed up his personal life, his professional life is coming to an end, and heís forced to do degrading, menial work at a supermarket in order to stay afloat. Public awareness of Rourkeís real-life struggles is used to the filmís advantage. What we see is Rourkeís journey (and rebirth, thanks to the filmís success) on screen - effectively real life for intense performers like him. Itís a bittersweet love letter to a complex man.

The first shot of Rourkeís face is noticeably delayed; we are stuck behind the hulking frame of the wrestler for quite some time before his visage is exposed, and when it is finally unveiled, pretty it ainít: Donatella Versace on steroids after a bar brawl. The most remarkable achievement of this film isnít the resurrection of Rourkeís career, itís the fact that he can still express himself so touchingly through such a startling mahogany mask. He must have the most expressive eyes in Hollywood.

With his body beginning to fail, his relationship with his estranged daughter a car wreck, and money hard to come by, thereís nothing much going for Randy save for a flirtation with a local stripper named Cassidy (aka Pam), and the admiration of die-hard wrestling fans.

Itís already 20 years since his heyday, but thereís almost a sense that heís been around since the dawn of time, that heís never been young. Although he sighs, grunts, and complains, thereís always a glint in his eye, a sweetness and wisdom. He seems as old as the earth, and his struggle in the face of a pretty bleak reality brings to mind Sisyphus.

He just keeps going. He tries reaching out to his daughter, who seems determined not to accept his advances. At the supermarket he slogs it out in the face of bleak indifference, trying to enliven his pedestrian existence though playful interactions with stony-faced customers. And though we are a bit too literally shown us the parallels between backstage at the ring, and backstage at the supermarket, itís a fair point: life is about performance. Smaller experiences can be just as terrifying as an appearance in front of thousands. And while both main characters have stage names as well as birth names, the difference is that while Pam feels repressed by her stage name, for Randy the Ram itís liberation.

Randyís fledgling romance with Pam, and the tenderness behind his advances, provides one of the filmís greatest pleasures. Thereís a childlike honesty to his interactions with others, and maybe thatís his problem Ė heís a child making an adultís decisions: free from many of societyís constraints, but at the same time hopelessly entangled in them. Indeed, his only trouble-free relationships are with the local kids at his trailer park, to whom he is a wrestling god, but even here he is short changed. In a poignant scene, he tries to convince one kid to keep playing his hopelessly outdated computer game to no avail. The kid politely makes his excuses and Randy is alone again.

As the stripper with a heart of gold, Marisa Tomei turns in a very human and believable performance. Together with Rourke she manages to negotiate the signposted plot developments served up to their characters thanks to some no-bullshit acting and believable chemistry. And in an intense and furious performance, Evan Rachel Wood is brilliant as Randyís daughter Stephanie, again overcoming a conventional story arc to access the hopeless anger of a young woman exhausted by the failures of her unreliable father.
Aronofskyís wise decision to film in an immediate, gritty fashion gives the film the authentic look it needs to transcend the scriptís lapses into formula.

The world of wrestling is portrayed as a close-knit, affectionate brotherhood, full of camaraderie and consultation about whatever crazy (and often eye-watering) stunt theyíre about to serve up. The fighting scenes are alternately amusing and operatic: this is where Randy feels at home, most alive, and accepted. Itís his family, for better or worse.

At one point, Randy says ĎI donít feel like Herculesí, and indeed thatís true: heís actually Achilles, physically imposing, but bound for tragedy.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17869&reviewer=423
originally posted: 02/05/09 13:14:09
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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

9/16/17 morris campbell boring overrated crap 1 stars
3/05/15 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
4/18/10 PAUL SHORTT UNPLEASANT DESPITE A GOOD STAR PEFORMANCE 2 stars
1/20/10 art IT TAKE IT BACK FOLKS!,EXCELLENT movie,rourke is superb,ditto forevan rachelwood 5 stars
12/05/09 art A DEPRESSING FILM ABOUT "THE GLORIOUS STATE THAT"S CALLED NEW JERSEY" 1 stars
11/29/09 Flounder The best film of 2008 5 stars
10/29/09 art HOLD EVERYTHING FOLK"S!,THIS DEPRESSING EXCUSE for a MOVIE!,set in "GOOD OLD NEW JERSEY" 1 stars
8/19/09 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
5/28/09 art A FANTASTIC MOVIE!,ROURKE EXCELLENT!,MARISA GREAT EYE CANDY! 4 stars
5/04/09 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
3/22/09 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
2/25/09 malcolm an old ECW fan says: brilliant performances, but not terribly original 4 stars
2/18/09 mr.mike Rourke brilliantly makes great acting look easy. 4 stars
2/16/09 Derkerdog A once in a lifetime performance from Rourke. Heartbreaking 5 stars
2/12/09 Kathleen I really like this review! The film was good too! 4 stars
2/10/09 Brian Marisa Tomei is really the unsung hero of this movie, a beautiful role and a beautiful body 5 stars
2/06/09 Alejandro Sosa I thought this film was an insanely truthful take on the wrestling industry, touching! 4 stars
2/03/09 Mark R Absolutely superb. A must-see flick. 5 stars
2/03/09 Suzz stunning acting; wonderful script; a film for the heart 5 stars
1/29/09 troy420 what movie did FrankNFurter watch one star for one brain cell! 5 stars
1/27/09 krank 4 the best movie I have ever seen, Mickey Rourke is so completely authentic. 5 stars
1/26/09 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
1/23/09 Luisa Very touching and raw. Great acting from Rourke and Tomei. 5 stars
1/19/09 K. Sear An entertaining character study that may signal a new Aronofsky era. 4 stars
1/15/09 FrankNFurter Rourke is hideously repugnant. And so is this film. 1 stars
1/12/09 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
1/06/09 the bride brilliant review, best movie of 2008, best actor oscar assured 5 stars
1/04/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Career consumption every 20+ something can relate to 5 stars
12/26/08 Greg Ursic Rourke gives the comeback performance of the year! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  17-Dec-2008 (R)
  DVD: 21-Apr-2009

UK
  N/A

Australia
  17-Dec-2008
  DVD: 21-Apr-2009




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