Review: The Wrestler
Plot: Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke), has seen better days. Back in the eighties, he was one of the most popular wrestlers in the business, but now, he’s slipped into obscurity. He makes a meager living wrestling in the independent circuit, but in his middle age, his tortured body is starting to fail him.
Review: I had high hopes for THE WRESTLER. I’m a big Mickey Rourke fan, but I’ve always felt that he had been born in the wrong era. If he had been around in the fifties, or sixties, I truly believe he would have been as big as Brando, but in the eighties, no one really seemed to know how to use him (with a few exceptions, ANGEL HEART, THE POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE, & YEAR OF THE DRAGON are all great films), and his mouth and ego got him into more trouble than his filmography suggested he was worth. After a sojourn into boxing, he slipped off the radar, only to re-emerge as an almost unrecognizable character actor (his once handsome face ravaged by time and, supposedly, plastic surgery).
In the last few years, thanks to the efforts of filmmakers like Tony Scott and Robert Rodriguez, he’s been making a comeback as a character actor, but now here he is, once again center stage and carrying a film of his own.
Not only is THE WRESTLER a great film, but it’s also probably the best work of Rourke’s career. This is really the role he was born to play, as he has a lot in common with “The Ram”, and it would be a shame if he doesn’t walk home with Oscar gold. In many ways, it seems this is the film Rourke’s whole career has been leading to.
It helps that the film is directed by Darren Aronofsky, who’s easily one of the best directors of his generation. Even when his films don’t work (like THE FOUNTAIN), they’re still interesting, and when Aronofsky is on the ball, he’s capable of making a masterpiece, which this film certainly is.
While Rourke is definitely the star of the show, the film also has a hell of a supporting cast. As his stripper/love interest, Marisa Tomei is brilliant. One thing about Tomei though, is that she’s almost too hot for the role. At forty four, Tomei is still stunning (and boasts a smokin’ bod which is on full display here), and when her character is sent away by some customers for being too old, I started to laugh, as I cannot imagine anyone being dumb enough to turn down a lap dance from Tomei.
As Rourke’s angry daughter, Evan Rachel Wood once again proves what a great actress she’s matured into. She only has a few scenes, but she makes the most of her limited screen time, and her confrontations with Rourke are wrenchingly powerful. At its heart, THE WRESTLER is really a tragedy and this particularly evident in their scenes together.
However, sad as it may be, THE WRESTLER is never depressing. I was actually surprised at how funny it is at times. For all of his shortcomings, “The Ram” is still a likable and friendly guy, who enjoys goofing around with people, and playing ancient Nintendo games with neighborhood kids and Rourke never once makes you pity him.
Overall, THE WRESTLER exceeded my expectations (and then some), and I truly think it’s among the best of the year. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a great new phase in Rourke’s career, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.