Thursday, December 18, 2008

Movie Review: The Wrestler (2008)

This mysteriously showed up at the theatre the other day, despite not being mentioned in our Christmas openings. So, since we had it in, I decided to call the rest of the NHO crew for a private midnight showing. Fellow writers Brian and Didge showed up and we got to experience a movie we’ve all been looking forward to in a special after-hours screening.

For those that don’t know about this movie, Mickey Rourke plays 1980s wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson who has faded from glory and is now eeking out a living working the loading dock at the local grocery and wrestling small shows on the weekends. Following a match one night, he collapses in the locker room from a heart attack. He wakes up to find himself in the hospital and being told by the doctor that he’ll never be able to wrestle again. After getting over the initial shock of the fact that his in-ring career is over, he spends time trying to get his life back together by reuniting with his estranged daughter and consoling with an exotic dancer named Cassidy. Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood co-star as Cassidy and his daughter, respectively, and each do an outstanding job. I’ll hit more on that later.

Rourke does a fantastic job as Robinson and he seemed to fit the role perfectly. The wrestling sequences were phenomenal and Rourke was taking bumps like a pro. The emotional scenes on the Atlantic City boardwalk where he is seemingly bonding with his daughter and telling her “I’m alone and I deserve to be all alone. I just don’t want you to hate me,” is delivered with an excellent degree of sincerety. Also great is the relative ease with which he plays the character. He turned in a performance that is one of emotional ups and downs and something that Nicolas Cage couldn’t have pulled off in his wildest dreams (remember, he was initially attached to this project).

The supporting cast of Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood was great as well. Let’s look at them individually. Tomei as Cassidy, the exotic dancer with which seems to be The Ram’s only friend, was great. She provided a heartfelt performance and tries her hardest not get emotionally involved with The Ram, who she sees as a customer in her bar. Wood, who appeared in only three segments, was excellent as the estranged and emotional daughter who has tried to remove her dad from her life. When she and her dad have their big blowup after he misses dinner, the emotion she brought out was tremendous.

The movie itself came off on-screen as a story of a man trying to get his life back together after being told that he can’t do what he loves. It’s an emotionally gripping story that takes the viewer into a world seldom publicized. The final showdown at the end with his old nemeis The Ayatollah (played by former WCW star Ernest Miller), is wonderful and the film takes you inside the ring and leaves your emotions torn apart when The Ram starts experiencing chest pains again during the match. There are cameos by numerous wrestling stars such as Necro Butcher and R-Truth. I would wholeheartedly recommend this film to wrestling fan and non-wrestling fan alike for the story and performances. Currently, the movie is only playing in New York and Los Angeles but is expanding to more markets in January. I would hope that Rourke gets an Oscar nomination for his performance because it’s really, really that good. Go see this film now.

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