The Wrestler (2008)
Rourke's Randy Comeback
The only place I get hurt is out there. The world don't give a shit about me - Randy 'The Ram' Robinson
You could say that Mickey Rourke has had an eventful career, a movie star in the 80s, boxer during the 90s and then back again to acting. During that time he became known to be hard to work with, had drug issues and some would say bordered on being self destructive which in many ways made him perfect for the lead role in "The Wrestler" a story about an aging wrestler who struggles with who he is and the world around him. And what a great performance it is from Rourke as he leads this tale of a tragic wrestler delivering emotion and comedy whilst looking every ounce the part of an aging wrestler. As such it is easy to say that "The Wrestler" is not only Mickey Rourke's greatest movie to date but also a damn fine movie which will not only appeal to wrestling fans but movie lovers in general.
Back in the 80s Randy 'The Ram' Robinson (Mickey Rourke - The Rainmaker) was a big hit on the professional wrestling circuit, he may not have made a fortune but he became a legend. Now 2 decades later and Randy is still wrestling on the circuit whilst working part-time at a grocery store in order to try and make ends meet. When he suffers a health scare he is forced to reassess his life and turn his back on wrestling. Trying to come to terms with life as an ex wrestler is hard work for Randy as he works full time in the grocery store, tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter whilst also trying to start a relationship with a stripper called Cassidy (Marisa Tomei - Wild Hogs). But with an opportunity to return to the ring for a big rematch it is decision time for Randy.
For a movie revolving around a sport "The Wrestler" is most definitely not your generic underdog story, it is a beautifully crafted tale of a man who has to face up to facts, try toredeem himself for years of selfishness and try to control his self destructive nature. It is surprisingly powerful as we follow the life of Randy 'The Ram' Robinson, once a successful wrestler during the 80s who now two decades later is still wrestling on the circuit and doing menial jobs to try and make ends meet. The introduction section as we basically meet Randy is eye opening as whilst we come to know this aging wrestler who really only knows what it is to be a wrestler we get a behind the scenes look at the industry. Now for years we have all heard that wrestling is fake, it's all staged and "The Wrestler" in many ways shows this with the wrestlers actually being friends discussing what they will do in each fight but at the same time it also shows that these men do put their bodies through some extraordinary punishment, including cutting themselves in the ring on purpose.
Moving on from this introduction which takes up a fair chunk of the movie and where we meet Cassidy the aging lap dancer who Randy has feelings for it moves onto the main part of the story where Randy has a health scare and is forced to reassess his life. This middle section is just as good as the opening as it really builds on the character of Randy, showing us this man who wants to make amends for years of selfishness as he seeks out a relationship with his estranged daughter. And at the same time we see him try and create a relationship with Cassidy as he is forced to stop wrestling. But at the same time we appreciate that Randy who tries to do a normal job is a wrestler at heart and always will be and so struggles. He struggles with not wrestling even though he knows it can kill him and also with not leading the exciting life style.
All of this makes "The Wrestler" a brilliant movie which is a mix of insight into the world of wrestling and that of a man who is a wrestler through and through whose self destructive tendencies stop him from becoming a new man. And what makes it so good is the whole styling from the almost fly on the wall style documentary as the camera follows Randy around through to the mix of drama and natural comedy. There is not a single scene played for laughs but watching Randy sitting on the edge of a hospital bed with his butt showing through an ill fitting gown is just funny and so is a later scene where he ends up having sex with a woman in public toilets. Neither of these scenes are thrown in for comedy but they just make you laugh and there are plenty of others which bring smiles through the humour of life.
In many ways it feels like Mickey Rourke was born to play the role of Randy because he does it so well. From the opening scenes where we watch him wrestle through to the way he tries to form relationships yet fails because his self destructive side leads him astray it just comes across that Rourke really connected with the character. And that connection is what makes it so good because not once does it feel like we are watching an actor trying to deliver the right emotion but instead Rourke reliving something he has done in his own life. As such "The Wrestler" is Mickey Rourke's finest movie to date and shows what a natural he is delivering everything from comedy through to action as well as plenty of emotion.
But Rourke is not the only actor who puts in a great performance and Evan Rachel Wood as his estranged daughter Stephanie is just as good delivering a performance of raw emotion as she has to deal with Randy trying to make up for years of hurt but still being a self destructive idiot. And on top of this you can't ignore the equally powerful performance from Marisa Tomei as lap dancer Cassidy. It's hard not to mention that Tomei appears topless in various scenes as well as does pole dances and lap dances all of which look stunning but it is the emotion she brings to the storyline which stands out. In a way her story runs in parallel with that of Randy's as she is not an old erotic dancer but not a young one and is starting to face up to that her dancing days may be coming to the end whilst also dealing with having children of her own and the advances of Randy. It's a brilliant performance and the movie scenes Tomei shares with Rourke are remarkably touching, even something like a shopping scene where you sense the chemistry simmering underneath but her constant resistance from allowing anything to happen in a case of self protection.
What this all boils down to is that "The Wrestler" is a brilliant movie and whilst a sort of sports movie it is one with mass appeal. From the behind the scenes look at the world of wrestling through to the story of an aging wrestler fighting his demons it just draws you in. And what draws you in even more are the performances of Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood who each deliver brilliant performances that take "The Wrestler" to another level from being more than very good but into the realms of being great.
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