The Wrestler (2008)

“The only place I get hurt is out there. The world don’t give a sh*t about me.”

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood

When faded wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson has a brush with death and feels his identity slipping away, the retired wrestler steps back to evaluate his life, reminiscing about his glory days in the ring. When the chance to fight his long time nemesis presents itself once more, Randy must decide between his mortality and the chance to be where he feels most appreciated and loved.

Once upon a time The Ram (Rourke) was one of the most famous wrestlers around, a true icon in the ring, but now – 20 years later – Randy is earning his keep by fighting in front of a small selection of fans in high school gyms and community centres. After a heart attack puts a new meaning on his life, Randy decides what’s most important and tries to reconnect with estranged daughter Stephanie (Wood) and convince stripper Cassidy (Tomei) to settle down with him.

Mickey Rourke is fantastic as Randy. A subliminal cast move (Rourke used to be an amateur boxer) and a successful move by Aronofsky after his previous long-winded flop, The Fountain. Rourke makes you feel everything, from the scars outside to his inner demons within. It’s amazing how he spurs up such a vast majority of emotions,; frustration, regret, disappointment, joy. No one else would have been more suited for the part and this film can definitely mark the comeback he was needing. While some may draw comparisons between the character and the actor, to watch the film without knowing about Rourke’s past has no real effect, it just works as a little nod to the audience on behalf of Rourke.

As for Marisa Tomei, wow. First off, her body is in great shape (no body-doubles were used) and secondly, how many actresses playing strippers in a dingy club can say they maintained a level of dignity throughout a film? Well, here’s one for starters. Tomei is brilliant as desperate pole-dance Cassidy. Bonding with Ram over an occasional few beers, her connection with him is much deeper than what a few 20s would buy. They both make a living off their bodies for starters, and both fondly reminisce over what life in the 80s and 90s used to be like. Tomei just keeps getting better and The Wrestler has to be her best move yet.

This film is another fine piece of work from director Darren Aronofsky. A poignant piece that explores the life of a has-been on his way to get back where he feels he belongs. A film that pulls no punches where honest despair, frustration and desperation are involved, for any fan of Aronofsky, The Wrestler is a must see. For anyone else, The Wrestler is also a must see!

Star rating:  8/10

Directed by Darren Aronofsky.

Running time 109 minutes.

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