What do you mean you haven’t seen The Wrestler yet? It may well be one of the top ten movie downloads of the last decade! Everything you’ve head about this movie is true. Mickey Rourke gives the performance of a lifetime, making a strong comeback, and the film itself may well be director Darren Aronofsky’s masterpiece.
Rourke’s performance is the heart, the soul and the body of the film. He takes some real bumps and went through training to actually learn how to wrestle. That’s really him in the ring. He had a stunt double for a few shots, but for the most part, that’s really him. Randy the Ram is an incredible and very human character.
Randy has lived a self destructive lifestyle, and he’s paying the price for it. He’s lost touch with his family, and while there’s a real bond between him and the boys in the locker room, he doesn’t really have anyone that’s truly close to him. So the movie follows him as he attempts to make a comeback and reunite with his daughter.
The movie will rip at your heart strings at the same time as it makes you feel a little more positive about life. The movie looks at Randy in a sincere light, portraying him as a real human being who’s made a lot of big mistakes, but a real human being nonetheless. The movie is brutally honest without ever succumbing to the cruel pessimism you usually see in films that are “brutally honest”.
Rourke is, again, incredible here. He lived this role in life for years, suffering through all sorts of problems and losing his place in the Hollywood pecking order. This movie is Rourke’s comeback, his story, just as it is Randy’s. Rourke didn’t just play this role, he was this role. Interestingly, Nicholas Cage was offered the job and dropped out because he knew his friend Rourke wanted it, and, in fact, would have done a better job.
They might have been able to secure a bigger budget had Cage stayed on, but the end result is a smaller, more intimate, personal movie, and it’s all that much better for it. Rourke wrestles for small crowds, and it really drives home the fact that Randy gives his all to every show, whether he’s wrestling for a few thousand fans or a few dozen. He really bleeds it out.
It’s an old story with cliche characters, but it never feels that way. Because it’s imbued with such humanity and honesty, it feels fresh and new, despite the fact that we’ve all heard of the down-on-his-luck fighter before.
When you hear the acoustic song by Springsteen at the end, take a moment to reflect on what the ending really means. This movie has a lot of depth, and sits somewhere between Rocky and Raging Bull in the pantheon of sports movies. It is, at once, heart breaking and heart warming, both upbeat and tragic, and the ending really drives that home. At the very least, it’s a story you’ll never forget.
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