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The Wrestler

Released: 2008

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 1 hr 49 min

MPAA Rating: NR

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marissa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Mark Margolis, Todd Barry, Wass Stevens, Ernest Miller

Darren Aronofsky’s acclaimed character study of Randy “The Ram” Johnson, a wrestler who, 20 years after his prime, is still a contender.

A unique and hellish masterpiece.

Review by: JerrySaravia

Added: 8 years ago

One of the reasons I like director Darren Aronofsky's films is that they are alive and completely conscious, similar to his contemporaries such as Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone. "The Wrestler" is more than a film - it is a firecracker of a movie that explodes and implodes with so much emotion, it leaves you burned out, exasperated and exhausted. This film quickens the pulse, radiates your nerves and leaves you with one of the greatest performances of the 21st and 20th century by the remarkable Mickey Rourke. High praise, indeed.

Rourke is the long-suffering, physically scarred and emotionally spent Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a pro-wrestler who has sucuumbed so heavily to the world of wrestling, he no longer feels joy from anything other than pleasing the audience. He can't please himself, though he tries with a local stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei, in a truly spellbinding performance) who smiles and clearly loves the guy, but she can't get involved (we know she will). There is the Ram's estranged daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood) who wants nothing to do with him and deeply hates him, especially since he has forgotten every single birthday of hers. Meanwhile, The Ram takes punishment in the ring with a variety of defensive weapons that will make most audiences flinch. There are staple guns, barbed wire, razors hidden in wrist paddings and much more. If any of you have seen such matches in hotel lobbies or in union halls, not to mention seeing the horrifying "Beyond the Mat" documentary, you'll have a good idea of what lies ahead.

The Ram has a heart attack at one point, and decides to retire and work at a deli department at the local supermarket. He has to make enough money to pay the rent for his trailer, give a few 20's to his confidante, Cassidy, and perhaps buy a nice jacket for his daughter. The question is how long can the Ram stay away from the ring.

"The Wrestler" is greatly focused on the Ram, from one battle on the ring to the next to fighting his restrained emotions in the suburbs and nightclubs of New Jersey, specifically Rahway. He can't connect to his daughter, claiming he is nothing "but a piece of meat." She feels sorry for him but she can't forgive him. Then there is Cassidy who helps him find an appropriate gift for his daughter. They have a scene in a bar where they sing to Ratt's "Round n' Round" that proves a song can speak volumes for the characters' sakes more so than just having a good song on a soundtrack.

Rourke has always been a fascinating presence in films ranging from "Rumble Fish" and "Pope of Greenwich Village" to his very underrated work in "White Sands" and his superb cameo in "The Pledge." He has had his own personal demons to fight, reducing his beatific visage to a squished rubber mat due to his boxing days and alleged plastic surgery. It is as if he hated his matinee idol look, turning away from it and crushing it because he was an actor first and foremost.

Such a parallel to Rourke's own life and career leads director Darren Aronofsky and Mickey Rourke to never shy away from the Ram's personal hell, a man who is bent on self-destruction without knowing it. He has the wrestling ring - it is his playground of emotion where he can feel loved by his peers and his fans. He just can't feel love from anyone else. Rourke shows such a depth and range of emotions that it will burn a hole through your heart. "The Wrestler" is not just powerful cinema - it is transcendental and contains quite possibly the most unforgettable and deeply personal performance of any actor since, dare I say, Harvey Keitel in "Bad Lieutenant." A unique and hellish masterpiece.