This one’s for Chris Casino.
The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke as Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a sort of “Macho Man” Randy Savage type professional wrestler in the late stages of a once illustrious career, and directed by Darren Aronofsky, is a powerful film. Possessed of a majestic brutality, a keening sense of sadness and bloody passion, it is an absorbing, fascinating and emotional work that draws the viewer into a world they might otherwise have never considered but, once glimpsed, are completely unable to turn away from.
It is not just a film for wrestling fans, certainly, but one would imagine that those of that ilk who watch it will not be disappointed. The depiction of the “sport” seems amazingly well done, from the fight sequences to the behind-the-scenes insight as we’re allowed to watch the atheletes interact before and after the events. The violence is graphic and, to those not familiar with this sort of entertainment, is an eye-opening window into the physical sacrifices participants are willing to endure for the sake of entertainment.
That, aside from the very human portrait of a man with some very sympathetic flaws, may be the most affecting part of the film. It gives you the sense that these men, in some cases at least, are willing to suffer almost anything for the sake of the performance. In one instance, for example, while participating in an extreme wrestling event, The Ram actually allows staples shot into his body, glass embedded in his back, barbed wire to tear him apart. The blood seems very real in such scenes and one feels a grim fascination with just how far these men are willing to go for their audience.
That, as I said, is only one aspect of the film. The other is the story of the man behind the performer as he attempts to grasp the ending of his career as he knows it and the shambles he’s made out of his life in the process. At once hanging on to the glories of a distant past while dealing with some deep regrets concerning the relationships in his life, most notably his estranged daughter. Rourke handles it all with a deft, profound emotionality that suggests the character’s plight is not entirely unlike his own at various points in his life, something he has admitted in interviews. The results are intensely affecting in a way not seen from the actor since, perhaps, Barfly.
The only issue I had with the film at all, and I know the actual creators of it had little to do with this, was a poster I saw that said “Witness the ressurection of Mickey Rourke”. I’m sorry, was that someone else playing Marv in Sin City, embodying the pure heroic insanity of that character to a glorious pinpoint accuracy that gave any reader of the comic a cast iron boner just to see it?
Mickey Rourke, for all his faults, has become an old warrior of an actor; beat-up, jaded, seen-it-all. Like Marv there’s nothing left that Hollywood or any aspect of the film industry can throw at him that can kill him. Like The Ram he comes before us at this stage of his career bloodied but unbowed, knowing full well his capabilities and how to use them most effectively. How to bare his soul to his audience and make them live through his eyes.
Which is exactly what he does in The Wrestler, making it one of the most compelling film experiences in recent memory.
Oh, and Marisa Tomei is topless in the film nearly constantly, which doesn’t hurt a flick.