Reviews

The Wrestler

5

Mickey Rourke becomes a contender again...

You don’t have to have been young in the ’80s to know how buff Mickey Rourke was in benchmark movies like Diner, Body Heat and Rumble Fish, but if you were, you’ll be all the more dismayed atwhat he’s done to himself over the last 20 years.

He was our Marlon Brando, we thought. And for the most part he’s lived down to that estimation in the worst way, slumming it in movies that only revealed his contempt for the business, letting his talent slide.

All of which makes Rourke the perfect – maybe the only – actor who could do justice to Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, the washed-up wrestler at
the heart of Darren Aronofsky’s beautiful, bittersweet and, at times, suprisingly funny, small-town blues of a movie.

Like Rourke, The Ram was Big Time back in the ’80s, a potential champion who came close, but no cigar. Two decades later he’s trailer trash. He still puts on the moves, but now he’s playing school gyms and selling photos for $8 a pop.

The money mostly goes on steroids and his fave stripper, Cassidy (Marisa Tomei, pretty terrific in a clichéd role).

Whatever you thought of Aronofsky’s last film, The Fountain – and there are plenty of people with strong opinions on both sides of that argument –The Wrestler marks a complete change of pace.

Low-key and naturalistic, with long, handheld tracking shots reminiscent of the Dardennes, this takes us way back past the loser-poetry of the first Rocky movie, all the way to the gutter Americana of the early ’70s.

Randy’s attempts to forge meaningful connections with Cassidy and his pissed-off daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) are probably doomed from the start, but we love him for trying.

Rourke looks waxy, bruised and bloated, but he hasn’t lost his charm. You come away with the reminder that this is where so many American Dreamers wind up: trapped in a cycle of self-defeat.

For Rourke, at least, the wrestler is the role of lifetime, and he’s better than he’s ever been.

Tom Charity

Verdict:

Aronofsky’s most authentic film refuses to ridicule the amateur wrestling circuit, while Rourke’s portrait of a has-been will surely be the comeback of the year.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • SopranosFan08

      Jan 12th 2009, 21:25

      5

      Honestly, did anyone think that this film was going to be THIS good before they saw it? This is a bold, beautifully crafted film with an absolutely astonishing performance from Mickey Rourke. One of the best films this year.

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    • garysimps

      Jan 14th 2009, 12:51

      really looking forward to this one. love aronofskys previous work and reqium is an all time favourite film.

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    • Kingsofleon05

      Jan 14th 2009, 23:44

      Ye, me to. Cannot wait, this decades Rocky....Rouke for an Oscar by all accounts......no rating as not seen yet, reckon a 4/5 though!

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    • MediaJunkie

      Jan 16th 2009, 2:33

      5

      Mickey Rourke plays a blinder! Was very impressed by this film contrary to my expectations... so many fight films have been released lately that i expected very little from "The Ram" but against all odds the movie proved to be a diamond in the rough! Randy "The Ram" a slightly washed up part time restler who was once a "GREAT" suddenly finds himself alone in the later years, with all the effects of the life he has been leading so far, and a struggle to regain some kind of relationship with his daughter. A wonderful storyline that deals with issues from parenting to conformity - watch it - love it, buy tissues ending requires trears to flow. Have Fun.

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    • Nealsreviews1

      Jan 18th 2009, 1:17

      4

      Mickey Rourke returns back to Hollywood with the highly praised The Wrestler. Darren Aronofsky took a big chance casting Rourke in this role but anything worth of interest was built on chance. Aronofsky took the timeless & ever strong Champ formula combined with an amazing cast. The down & out has been makes a comeback we have seen it before with the Rocky series etc. But Rourke’s vulnerbility which we ever hardly see is captivating. Randy “The Ram” Robinson knows nothing more in life but wrestling. A fallen has been wrestler from the 80’s glory days now lives in a trailer & doing his performances in second rate venues. His regular life is falling apart as he tries to romance a local stripper, Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) along with his bitter angry aloof lesbian daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood). His fighting days are coming to an end after a savage match that brings on a heart attack. But he feels there is still one last desperate fight in him. You can gather from the plot the script is not very original but this film does an excellent job of capturing the grimey authentic feel in the world of pro wrestling & Aronofsky’s desirous direction. Rourke’s performance is phenominal you literally can’t help but watch him. I would not be surprised if he took home the oscar for this. Neal Damiano Film Journalist

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    • socheeky

      Jan 21st 2009, 11:15

      4

      Believe the hype. Mickey Rourke should be as much a certainty to win an Oscar on February 22nd as Heath Ledger. In terms of style, budget, storytelling technique and box office, The Wrestler and The Dark Knight are poles apart, yet both are elevated by a singularly stunning performance. I've been a long-time fan of Rourke since Angel Heart back in 1987, and, although he never fulfilled his 'New Brando' tag, has always been great to watch – even if only through squinted eyes, as his looks were eroded by boxing and surgery. It wasn't until 2005, when he brought a memorable presence (and voice-over) to psychotic hulk-with-a-heart Marv in Sin City, that he was back on the map again. One thing straight first. Despite what you might have gleaned from the praise-filled, fight-centric ads for The Wrestler, this is not a crowd-pleasing Rocky-esque 'has-been steps into the ring for one last triumph' movie. In actuality, this is a slow, seedy, naturalistic, understated, desperately sad character study whose camera fondly prowls around its protagonist like his number one fan. If you give him time though, Rourke's over-the-hill, dignified grappler Randy 'The Ram' Robinson' will work his way into your heart. Barely scraping together enough money from convenience store work and weekend wrestling to pay the rent on his trailer, Randy is an amiable Eighties throwback who looks like Dog the Bounty Hunter after a rough month. Randy keeps his battered body going via under-the-counter medicines and the reverence and affection he receives from fellow wrestlers and fight followers. His only social contact outside of that world is in the supermarket job he hates and with dances from a mature stripper mum called Cassidy (Marisa Tomei, very convincing), for whom he has feelings. The movie's most startling – and many will find sickening – sequence, comes after a bloody wrestling bout with such props as barbed wire and a nail gun. We see the wrestlers post-fight, who both seem to have returned from war. It comes as a relief not to have witnessed what came before. Except we do shortly afterwards, as each one of Randy's rips and punctures is graphically illustrated from minutes earlier. Although patched up, The Ram collapses and wakes up in hospital, having had emergency heart surgery. If he fights again, he may well be in a coffin. Rourke's realization that he could die alone and unloved prompts him to track down his estranged daughter, played by the ever impressive and busy Rachel Evan Wood. To reveal more would soften the dramatic sting of a truthful, affecting tale, buoyed by an utterly believable Mickey Rourke. He doesn't play the role, he is the role. Every physically demanding throw and grapple seems to be performed by him, every inch of his face and body speaks of a life centred around pushing the pain threshold, and every heartfelt tear of regret brings tingles to those watching. The effect of the 'invisible' style of film-making from director Darren Aronofsky, known for his highly stylized, arty movies and for being Rachel Weisz's man, reaps dividends each time the observational peace is shattered. When Randy finally does lose it outside of the ring – which may put you off delicatessen food for life – it has one hell of an impact. Rourke's female co-stars deserve plaudits for their excellent, committed contributions to this dip into the unglamorous side of sporting life, but all eyes are on the 52-year-old star. He literally kicks a**e.

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    • casinoheat

      Jan 30th 2009, 1:25

      5

      Rourke's greatest performance yet

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    • stl30

      Feb 10th 2009, 1:14

      3

      Quite good, but the standard of characterisation is wildly overrated and virtually every player is a walking cliche. Even the wrestling makes a farce of already pretty farcical action. Still, Rourke inhabits a role that could have been written for him, and the tale, although cliched, is compelling enough to keep you spectating right til the final bell.

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    • imsoremarkable

      Feb 13th 2009, 20:31

      I haven't seen it yet but I will.

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    • joker16

      Mar 8th 2009, 15:12

      4

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    • Phoenix81

      May 7th 2009, 14:04

      4

      Superb film with Mickey back to his very best as the beaten former pro wrestling champ.

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    • thekillingjoke

      May 21st 2009, 17:37

      5

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    • dztop

      Jan 7th 2010, 19:31

      4

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    • district9

      Sep 8th 2010, 18:45

      5

      Brilliant! A phenominal film in which Rourke gives one of the best acting performances ever. Everyone in the film is amazing, as is the score. Very emotional and well executed. 10/10.

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    • glegs

      Feb 26th 2011, 3:21

      5

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