The Wrestler is Mickey Rourke’s movie. A big time wrestler in the 80’s, Randy “The Ram” Robinson is now in his 50s and still wrestles, hoping for one more shot at the big time. Its the one thing he can do well and he lives for the roar and adulation of the crowd.
Yes, we all know that wrestling is “fake”, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real or it doesn’t hurt. Each time you hit the canvas, or get hit with a fold-up chair, or any of the other creative ways the pros use to entertain you, the wrestler still has to take the blow, get up, and do it again. And the strains of this entertainment are starting to show. The Ram's body is scarred from ring mishaps of years past; the muscle tissue is starting to weaken and tear from years of abuse; and the drugs to repair the damage, build the muscle and eat the fat, are common place. Back stage, its not a glamorous lifestyle and the pay for his efforts is solely dependent on the gate – often not a lot of reward for his effort.
Rourke is such a physical actor. His body is as much a part of the role as any words he has to say. His big shoulders, square jaw and scarred brow all play the role. And you know too, or at least deeply suspect, that Rourke is doing all his own stunts. Each crunch is hurting.
The other notable performance, also a physical role, is stripper/friend Cassidy, played by Marisa Tomei. Striking to look at, 44 year old Tomei puts her body on the line. She is every bit as gutsy and compelling as Rourke, in a support role.
The director is Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) who revels in the dark hallways or crowded change rooms that twist and turn before leading out onto the glittering pole-dancing stage or the brightly lit wrestling ring.
The story tracks The Ram through the final stage of his wrestling life as he tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter and make something of his relationship with Cassidy. It is straightforward enough. There is some humour, especially in the early wrestling scenes where each opposing pair works out their moves beforehand.
The power and appeal of this film however is in the dominating hulk that is Mickey Rourke and is worth every cent watching him strut his stuff. 4 out of 5.
The film is due out in Australia in January. Many thanks to Hopscotch Films for the preview.