The Wrestler (2008)

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Ranked #458
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Aging wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson is long past his prime but still ready and rarin' to go on the pro-wrestling circuit. After a particularly brutal beating, however, Randy hangs up his tights, pursues a serious relationship with a long-in-the-tooth stripper, and tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter. But he can't resist the lure of the ring and readies himself for a comeback. --TMDb
Mickey Rourke
Mickey Rourke
Marisa Tomei
Marisa Tomei
Evan Rachel Wood
Evan Rachel Wood
Mark Margolis
Mark Margolis
Todd Barry
Todd Barry
Review by bluemeanie
Added: January 11, 2009
No one has wrecked themselves quite as seriously as Mickey Rourke. He was once the golden boy - handsome, talented and rising to the top. Then his own self-destructive tendencies took over and ran his career off the rails. He's a 52-year-old man who most often looks like a 72-year-old man; face and body worn down, voice weathered from years of self-abusive and the hardcore lifestyle. Lately, however, it would seem that he has been on somewhat of a comeback, which seemed to really kick into high gear after his role as Marv in the successful "Sin City". But, unlike Robert Downey, Jr. who came back and hit the ground running, Rourke has still been waiting in the shadows for just the right role to come along. Enter "The Wrestler". Never has a film so closely mirrored the rise and fall of its star. Never has one man personified a role so clearly. "The Wrestler" comes to us from director Darren Aronofsky, the visionary filmmaker who brought us the emotional nightmare of "Requiem of A Dream" and then waited six years to bring us the futuristic mind-meld "The Fountain". This film seems an odd choice for the director, but he makes it his own and fits right in with the picture. "The Wrestler" affected me more than I had expected it too. It has an emotional core, carried solely by Mickey Rourke, that resonates. I can't imagine it not having an affect on an audience.

In the role of his lifetime, Mickey Rourke stars as Randy 'The Ram' Robinson, formerly the professional wrestling golden boy - akin to Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair. He was at the top of his profession for many years, but now finds himself playing the weekend circuit, battered down and destroyed by years of physical abuse. He works at a grocery store during the week scraping together whatever hours he can. He spends his nights at the local strip bar, where a stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) listens like no other. He has special feelings for her. And, on the weekends, he wrestles. When Randy suffers a heart attack and is told he cannot wrestle again, he's thrown into an abyss of uncertainty and confusion. He finds himself alone dealing with a terrifying issue. He eventually decides to reconnect with his daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), who doesn't like him, and start up a new relationship. He retires from wrestling and tries to turn his life around, but his old ways come creeping up and threaten to derail everything. The film ends with one of the greatest 10-minute stretches of recent memory, the final shot saying what Rourke has been expressing the entire film. Some people cannot change, as hard as they try, and it doesn't mean they're bad people - it just means they don't know any better. I can't imagine an ending summing up a film any better.

Let's start with the incredible screenplay from Robert Siegel. You start with a simple premise and expand from there, and that's what he did here. The film never strays from what the title would imply. It is all about Mickey Rourke and I expect Rourke did most of the heavy lifting himself. The soundtrack, composed of 1980's hair bands and hard rock groups, says so much about the mentality and the past of this character - a man who is stuck in the 1980's both mentally and physically. He doesn't fit in and he doesn't seem to function in mainstream society. The cinematography is nothing fancy - very basic and affective - a far cry from Aronofsky's previous work. This is just a very simple film with a very simple premise that breaks your heart wide open. You know you shouldn't feel sorry for the character because he does everything to himself, but you can't help it. Rourke is that sympathetic and that brutally innocent that you want to protect him before he breaks. And let me just say that the wrestling sequences are the most authentic I have ever seen captured on film. You really get a sense of how these guys prepare for what they do and you even get some special tricks that wrestlers use that aren't available to the general public. But we also see wrestling portrayed as a serious and dangerous sport. These men are actors and they are brutes - it is a lot of staging, but people hurt themselves; blood is shed, bones are broken and damage is done. You always hear that it's just pretend, but for these men - it gets very serious and very real sometimes.

I could spend a whole paragraph on Mickey Rourke's performance - I have already devoted a significant amount of time to it. He is phenomenal, the performance of the year and a true revelation. Mickey Rourke is Randy 'The Ram' Robinson. It's like they are one in the same. The scene between Mickey Rourke and Evan Rachel Wood in the abandoned building is one of the most tender moments of his career, and then watching their final scene together just breaks you in two. We're feeling that pain right along with him and feeling just as devastated as he is. He's a man with one thing going for him - the sport he loves. When he loses that, he reaches out to his daughter. When he loses her, he has nothing left, which makes the ending so incredible. Marisa Tomei is also just wonderful as the stripper who eventually warms up to 'The Ram'. She has this quiet sincerity to her on screen that works with each role she takes on. I suspect she'll get another Oscar nomination for her work here and it's much deserved. Very few actresses are this comfortable with themselves to do what she does in this film, and adds a nice levity to Mickey Rourke's character also. Evan Rachel Wood is really only in three scenes in the film, but she is very effective, especially her final scene with Rourke.

I love, love, loved this film. Unlike "Revolutionary Road", this film did not disappoint in the slightest. It lived up to my high expectations and then some. Mickey Rourke is the most deserving Best Actor contender we've had in a long while and it will thrill me if he takes home the gold. What a great year 2008 was, if only to usher the return of two of cinema's greats - Robert Downey, Jr. and Mickey Rourke. I recommend "The Wrestler" for the following awards: Mickey Rourke for Best Actor, Marisa Tomei for Best Supporting Actress, Robert Siegel for Best Original Screenplay, Darren Aronofsky for Best Director and "The Wrestler" for Best Picture of the year. I have read some negative reviews of this film and I honestly don't know where in the hell they could come from. I can't imagine anyone not responding to this material in an honest way. I sincerely hope you all get a chance to see it in theatres and enjoy it with an audience. It's rare when we get the chance to root for a character like this surrounding my our peers.

Review by Chad
Added: December 30, 2008
The Wrestler has been one of my most anticipated movies of the year, and tonight, I finally got a chance to sit down and watch it. To cut right to the chase, the film was nothing less than perfect - it lived up to the hype and then some. One of the early posters described Mickey Rourke's performance here as "iconic" - that is true. Ebert called it "one of the best movies of the year" - that is also true. As a fan of professional wrestling, I thought that the film was flawless from top to bottom. My girlfriend, a woman who absolutely despises the sport, shed a couple of tears and said that the movie was one of the best things that she'd seen in ages. Why this did not get a wide release is beyond me, as this is easily one of the finest films that I've seen all year.

Before getting down to business, let me point out one thing: yes, this film centers around a pro wrestler, and yes, the "sport" is featured prominently throughout the storyline. However, you do not have to be a fan of wrestling to enjoy this movie. If you do call yourself a fan, you'll recognize a couple of the wrestlers (watch for Necro Butcher in a small but excellent role) and you'll know which guys the writers took their inspiration for the story from, but this film is not at all unlike Million Dollar Baby in that you do not have to be a fan of the sport in question to enjoy the film itself. It's an added bonus, but it's far from a requirement.

The aforementioned pro wrestler is Randy 'The Ram' Robinson (Mickey Rourke), a man who has sold out stadiums across the country, won every heavyweight belt imaginable, and wrestled in front of thousands in attendance and millions watching at home on pay-per-view... back in the eighties. Obviously, the eighties are long gone, and The Ram now finds himself a washed-up has-been who makes ends meet during the week by working at the local grocery store while still wrestling in high school gymnasiums on the weekends in front of crowds of ten or twenty. No, time hasn't been too kind to our leading man; his body is falling apart, he can't keep up with the bills, there's no longer a "special somebody" in his life, and his daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood) wants nothing to do with him thanks to him choosing wrestling over her while she was growing up. The only thing that The Ram has going for him in his life is the adoration of a small yet loyal group of wrestling fans, but even that is fading as the years go by.

There's more to the storyline, but this is all that you need to know going into the film. There is a stripper who plays a potential love interest (Marisa Tomei) and there is a major event towards the middle of the film that changes everything, but all of this is material that viewers should see for themselves instead of reading about online.

First things first: Mickey Rourke. "Iconic" just doesn't do his performance justice, as he takes this character and runs with it, keeping those of us watching at home captivated the entire time. It certainly doesn't hurt that his own personal life is eerily similar to that of the character he's playing, but whatever the cause and reason, he turns in a performance that is nothing short of phenomenal. When he's in the ring, he legitimately looks like a guy who could kick some ass (his muscled-up body definitely helps in that regard). When he steps out of the ring, he alternates between a lighthearted guy who is quick to crack a joke and a guy whose face can be read like a book... a book dealing with depression, despair, and regret. In a perfect world, Rourke would take home every award dealing with "2008" and "acting", because it's truly been a long time since I've seen someone play a role as convincingly as he did here. Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood are both above average in their roles, but make no mistake about it: this is Rourke's movie and he simply makes everyone else look bad by comparison.

I'm a fan of professional wrestling as I mentioned above, and I couldn't believe how accurate the film was when dealing with this topic. You see, the industry is pretty rotten to all but the biggest names, and it's not uncommon to see the biggest stars of the eighties in exactly the same position that The Ram finds himself in during this film. I'm not going to name names here, but there are real people who have to wrestle in small bingo halls in order to pay the rent, there are more than a couple of guys who have pushed their families away thanks to their lust for stardom, and yes, there are a large number of guys who keep on wrestling when it's obvious that their best days are far behind them. Given the nature of the storyline, I expected some of this to be translated, but what I got simply blew my mind. Was this a movie or a documentary as told by someone who has been there? It's sort of hard to tell, and the fact that this accuracy has brought a couple of real-life wrestlers to tears during early screenings should speak volumes.

With that said, I should again point out that you do not need to be a fan of wrestling to enjoy this film. It's an intense character study at its core, and just as the title implies, it focuses on "a wrestler" instead of "wrestling" in general. You do not need to know the history of the sport in order to get that this is a man whose best days are far behind him, you don't need to know what a powerbomb is to see that he's getting nowhere in life, and not knowing who Ric Flair or Terry Funk is will not hurt your chances at seeing that this is a man who is all alone in the world. Watching him battle these insurmountable odds in an attempt to get his life back on track is heartbreaking at times, and there are moments to be found where there will not be a dry eye in the theater. When you stop to think that this story has happened to countless individuals in the real world over the years, it takes on an entirely new level of meaning.

I can not recommend The Wrestler enough - this is a film that should be seen by everyone, plain and simple. There is not a weak seam in the entire film, nor is there a single scene that could have been trimmed or a twist that should have been left in the script. What Darren Aronofsky has given us is nothing short of perfection, and it's also a very late - and high-ranking - entry in my "Best of 2008" list. 10/10.
Tristan #1: Tristan - added 01/02/2009, 10:37 PM
I'm with Chad 100% on this. Since I used to be a huge fan of wrestling and tried to keep up on all the documentaries and books, I know a bit about what goes on behind the scenes. I felt that this movie was nothing short of perfection, and I'm not the least bit ashamed to admit I shed a few tears during the odd scene. Why this didn't get a wide release is beyond me, but I don't see any reason why Rourke shouldn't get some award nods from this.

grain of sand #2: grain of sand - added 01/14/2009, 03:51 PM
Walked out of the theater both extremely happy I'd seen a truly great movie and extremely depressed because of the subject matter.. Loved it, 10/10
grain of sand #3: grain of sand - added 01/14/2009, 03:52 PM
Oh, and Marisa Tomei is looking amazingggg
Nirrad #4: Nirrad - added 01/15/2009, 01:50 AM
10/10. What a great movie, and the added nudity of Marisa makes it that much better.
George Snow #5: George Snow - added 04/26/2009, 02:10 AM
I enjoyed this, but I didn't love it. I do have a question, what was the meaning behind all the walking from behind shots?
Ginose #6: Ginose - added 02/15/2010, 07:26 PM
This was an absolutely engaging and gorgeous piece of film. I will watch it a dozen more times before I stop praising it, and even then I will love it. Too many people I know complain about where it ends, though... dick-heads.

And I would fuck Marisa Tomei's face off of her face.
Lucid Dreams #7: Lucid Dreams - added 02/15/2010, 07:36 PM
How old is she? She is a nice piece of ass, but what is she in her 40's?
Ginose #8: Ginose - added 02/15/2010, 07:41 PM
45, according to IMDb.
Would've fucked Pam Grier up until around 2000. Age is NEVER a factor. That's like saying you'd make judgement calls on fucking a vampire.
Rest Easy Soul #9: Rest Easy Soul - added 07/25/2010, 11:03 AM
I love this movie. It's a bit long for what it is but it doesn't take away from the enjoyment. Great story.
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