The Wrestler: Movie Review The Wrestler DVD
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood
Director: Darren Aronofsky
A fading wrestler, battered by his time in the ring, looking for one last final big fight aka Randy "The Ram" Robinson.
An actor, battered by his time in the spotlight, looking for a return to fame and peer acceptance aka Mickey Rourke.
Yes, the parallels in Darren Aronofsky's latest between the titular character and Mickey Rourke are far too obvious.
Back in the 1980s, Randy The Ram Robinson was a big player in the wrestling scene - his nemesis in the ring was the Ayatollah but these days The Ram plays smaller venues and is struggling to get by.
But the Ram is old school; he still loves to put on a show for the fans so much so that he'll use a razor blade in the ring to cut his own head, allowing the blood to mingle with his blond overlong trestles.
However, life outside the ring is not going great for Randy.
His futile attempts to rebuild some of the destroyed bridges with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) whom he abandoned in his early years and his push to form a closer bond with stripper Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) are pushing him ever further to the edge of desperation.
A heart attack after a particularly gruesome smackdown forces him to re-evaluate his life and as he wrestles with the possibility of his life being over, he tries one last time to put his life in order and quell the demons of the past.
The Wrestler mixes documentary and drama - in effect, at times, it feels like a doco about a Wrestler's twilight years, as he adjusts to life outside the ring, a life where he's always struggling to get by and where he feels alienated.
However, it's Rourke's performance in this film which is so compelling even if the route Aronofsky takes is somewhat predictable (what will happen between estranged daughter/ father as they pursue a second chance; what could happen when he takes a role at the local deli counter; will he grow closer to Cassidy), it's Rourke's turn which makes it plausible, raw and emotive.
His every move after a fight is a struggle; his very core is mangled by the lack of emotional connection with his daily life he is a character who is fighting to move on and deny the reality of what hes created over the years.
Even when The Rams beavering away behind the deli counter, he's essentially putting on a show for the customers, struggling to break away from the persona he's become over the years.
At the Wrestler's emotional core is an existential conflict between living life because you have to and denying who you are.
Both The Ram and Cassidy realize this as they try to make ends meet.
(Minor spoiler warning!)
And when The Ram gives his final speech in the ring about how he's going to keep doing this for the fans and will only quit when they tell him to, you can't help but wonder how cathartic that must have felt for Rourke, as an actor who spent many years in the wilderness.
There are some great moments in The Wrestler - such as the camera following The Ram as he negotiates the back corridors in the supermarket to the front counter which parallel his entrance to the ring but at times, Aronofsky is a little hard handed in delivering them choosing to sledge hammer them home rather than rely on a more subtle approach.
The open to interpretation ending of the film may infuriate some, and some of the formulaic way in which the plot unfolds may irritate purists but at the end of the day, The Wrestler is a tour de force; an emotionally draining journey and one which will leave you feeling like you've experienced the Ram Jam smack down Robinson's character is famous for in the ring as you step outside.