Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Exfanding Review: The Wrestler

The Wrestler movie posterA quick review today, about one of the most talked-about films of the past year, Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler. Now, right off the bat let's just warn everyone that this is a hard R-Rated flick, so definitely don't bring the kiddies.

I should also preface the review with the fact that I've followed Professional Wrestling on and off pretty much my entire life, but the story of this film is a universal one, and knowledge of wrestling is pretty irrelevant to one's being able to understand or follow the movie.

Now, the first thing that jumps right at you when the film opens and we see our first glimpse of Mickey Rourke as aging 80s superstar Randy "The Ram" Robinson, is that this part was written specifically for Rourke.

This movie is, in some ways, analogous to Rourke's own career path, and Rourke embodies the broken-down Ram, perfectly capturing the essence of the character. Simply put, Rourke's performance as the once-great Madison Square Garden headliner is pretty stunning. As is Marissa Tomei's in her role as the complicated and eminently interesting love interest.

The film opens with a wrestling match featuring The Ram against a young wrestler trying to make his way to the big time. And when I say "wrestling match," I mean just that. This opening scene goes a long way in cementing the believability of the movie, and of Rourke as the title character. Not only does he look the part, but he can play the part.

Rourke is in the ring, performing the various moves, and looking more than capable as a pro wrestler. And this is very important, since the film requires the character to partake in some pretty brutal wrestling action (including a bloody "hardcore" match featuring tables, and chairs, and ladders, and glass, and staples, and...well, you get the idea).

Really from the moment the film begins, the viewer is completely immersed in this guy's world. And, as the film progresses, the audience alternately loves the character, and despises him, and fears him, and fears for him, and it is this cycle of emotions that make this movie stay with the viewer hours, and even days, after seeing it.

I won't give a plot summary here, for two reasons. First, because I'm no good at it, but mostly because I felt the script was utterly predictable. At various points in the film, before events happened on screen, I knew they were going to happen. And, usually, something like that would completely ruin a movie for me, or anyone I guess.

But, despite this fact that I was watching a story where I knew what was going to happen at each turn, I found myself glued to the flick, unable to turn away, and disappointed when it ended.

And, I suppose, that's a hallmark of good film-making, and certainly a credit to the actors and their performances.

So, I'll end with this. The Wrestler is the story of a beaten down, broken, has-been trying to rectify the sins of his past. The story is utterly human, and recognizable. If you go see it, you'll find yourself rooting for The Ram, and rooting against him, and you'll leave the theater still thinking about him.

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