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(2008)

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Brutal, Honest, Touching film
Billy_Costigan20 January 2009
The Wrestler is a drama centered around an aging professional wrestler past his prime. It's so much more than that. You don't have to be a fan of wrestling to enjoy this film. The wrestling part of it can be put aside as a back story. Randy "The Ram" could be in any other profession, doing any other thing and could be in the same situation. That's what's so great about it. He's just a lonely guy, whose life seems to have passed him by. A middle aged man who doesn't have much going for him. Sure, he's a wrestler, but he needs wrestling more than wrestling needs him. He needs it to feel important, to feel like a somebody. He really has nothing to show for himself, no wife, just a daughter he hasn't been there for his whole life. Missed opportunities. He's sad and alone and we really do feel for him.

A closer bond seems to be forming between him and his stripper friend, played by Marisa Tomei, who seems to be in a similar situation as he is. The middle aged stripper who seems to have a real connection with "The Ram" is shown in another misunderstood profession. We all may not be as different as we may think. Health problems compromise his wrestling career as he tries to deal with the real world and rebuild his relationship with his abandoned daughter. The scenes with Evan Rachel Wood (his daughter) are touching. Beautifully done. Rourke's character portrayal of the Ram is one of the best in a long time. He's not just acting, he transforms into the character on screen. It's amazing to watch. All the credit he's getting is truly deserved.

The film is Directed by Darren Aronofsky, who also directed Requiem for a Dream. He does a beautiful job showing the sport with realism. The film respects the wrestlers and their world, and expects the same from the audience. This film is done in a style that's so real, so honest, so amazing, in easily one of the best films of the year. All around great performances and great direction. Definitely worth checking out sometime.
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10/10
A Broken Down Piece of Meat That Doesn't Deserve To Be All Alone
BandofInsiders10 December 2008
It's no coincidence that Mickey Rourke is responsible for the comeback performance of the year if not the decade. Rourke's life and tumultuous past parallel Randy "The Ram" Robinson's own life so eerily close it becomes clear that no one else could have ever played this role. Darren Aronofsky's fourth feature is not only his most intimate but also his most accomplished to date. Aronofsky offers his most simplistic film both visually and narratively and ends up creating a film that has more depth and layers to it than any of his previous films.

Everything about Randy's life is in a state of decay. He retains a body that is on the verge of collapse, he hasn't seen his only daughter in years, financially he is exhausted, and the only thing that brings him solace in life is the same thing that threatens to end it. The most effective aspect of Randy's character is that no matter what mistakes he might have made in the past his sense of regret is so strong and genuine that it is impossible not to forgive him. As beaten down and alone as Randy might be he never looses his fighting spirit or sense of hope, no matter how little it may be. Regardless what hardship Randy is confronted with he never retreats and is admirably courageous even if being courageous might not be the smartest settlement.

For the general public who tend to find professional wrestling laughable and are quick to judge as a form of entertainment rather than a sport will find a deadly adversary in Aronofsky. The Wrestler shows that while outcomes of matches may be fixed the physical tolls these men take on their body are often more extreme and long lasting than most other "respectable" sports. The fact that Randy gives so much of himself and is ridiculed from everywhere to the trailer park he lives in to the job he keeps while not in the ring, makes us even more empathetic to the struggle Randy goes through to try and make it back on top. Overall The Wrestler is a constantly engaging and compelling character study with some of the finest acting, writing, directing I have seen in recent years. Oh and I forgot, the last shot will leave you speechless.
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9/10
A Haunting Portrait Of Loneliness
ccthemovieman-125 March 2009
Wow, what a sordid but fascinating film. I can why Mickey Rourke won so many awards for his performance, too. The same goes for the film.

The film was shocking to me: For instance, it was a shock seeing Rourke -"Randy The Ram" - with the long, flowing blond hair and rippling muscles. Hey, it's not that former boxer was ever in bad shape, but he never had muscles like this either. The man must have pumped a lot of iron to get ready for this role as an aging wrestler.

Another shock was seeing Maria Tomei, of "My Cousin Vinny" fame, naked - and in that state in more than one scene. She didn't leave much to the imagination as "Cassidy." A third shock was seeing some of the early wrestling scenes. Yeah, pro wrestling is rough stuff and it's bloody and it's fake, etc., but the scenes in here are pretty brutal, more than I've ever seen on TV. The one extended match with the "staples" was pretty gruesome.

Evan Rachel Wood is convincing as Randy's daughter "Stephanie." This 21-year-old is no stranger to acting, having been doing it since she was four! The scenes with her and her dad are memorable.

When the shock of the above scenes of sex and violence (and language) fade away, underneath it all is a very tender, sad tale of a lonely man who invested too much in his career and, after coming close to mortality, realizes the important of family and simply being loved by anyone. That's what sticks with you long after the film ends. Loneliness can be a killer.

"Randy" tries to mend fences and post a few himself - in his final quest not to wind up as an island in this world of humanity - with both successful and unsuccessful results. Sometimes you can never change what you are, and sometimes you can. Both of those are demonstrated here in this oddly-edgy-but sentimental film.
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Mickey Rourke is as great as everyone's saying he is.
nonsequitur24710 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Nicholas Cage? Bruce Willis? Wrong. Never would have worked. No one else could have played Randy "The Ram" Robinson with the compassion and energy he brings to the role--it's painful to see the fading professional wrestler coming to terms with both his mortality and the emptiness of his life outside the ring, and this is largely due to Rourke's excellent acting. Twenty years after the defining match of his career, Randy is still a fan favorite and loving his work--until he suffers a heart attack. The film follows the gentle giant as he tries to adjust to living without wrestling, reconnect with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood), and kindle a bond with a friend who works in a strip club (Marisa Tomei).

This isn't just a film about professional wrestling, but Aronofsky gets that part right. He does a beautiful job showing the sport with realism without mocking it: he highlights the humor, but never makes fun of it. He doesn't just deconstruct the mythical image of wrestlers' performances, but he also destroys their apparent rage towards each other. It's clear that these guys are friends--they care about and respect each other. These other wrestlers in the film are all played by professionals, and they do a great job with the acting. The film respects them and their world, and demands the same from the audience.

The other supporting characters are strong as well. Tomei and Wood's characters could easily have fallen into clichés, but they give Randy some of his best moments on screen. Tomei's storyline, especially, serves as a nice parallel and contrast to Randy's. Wood's could use a little more juice, but her story arc does the same. Both are effective.

Another notable aspect of the film is its music. The character of Randy is a big '80s rock fan, and for the film, they got the rights to use Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine." A special thanks at the end of the film went out to Axl Rose. On the softer side, Bruce Springsteen wrote "The Wrestler" for the credits, and its sweet melancholy serves as the perfect coda for the film.

Overall, 'The Wrestler' is great. It's a rich, round film that smoothly weaves together pathos and comedy and soul. It's funny and dramatic, tear-jerking and tough. Definitely a must-see this winter.
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9/10
An excellent drama about an aging wrestler
Greg Magne9 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The Wrestler won the Golden Lion a few days ago in Venice. Obviously that's going to build up some high expectations but director Darren Aronofsky introduced it as a "simple little film" and he didn't want the movie to get over-hyped. He said it's been a busy week as he only finished the film 6 days ago!!

Randy "The Ram" Robinson, played brilliantly by Mickey Rourke, was a star professional wrestler in the 1980s. He had a legendary pay-per-view match against the Ayatollah in his prime, his own Nintendo game, posters, "Best of The Ram" VHS series and legions of fans who worshipped him. The film begins in the present day with The Ram collecting a paltry sum of money for his latest fight only to discover he's been locked out of his trailer home because he's behind on his rent. He has a good physique for his age - with the aid of steroids and tanning salons - he still has good friends in the local wrestling brotherhood and he enjoys hanging out with Cassidy (played by Marisa Tomei) at the strip club where she works. He's a likable guy and the neighbourhood kids look up to him as a hero, so it's easy to root for this washed-up old wrestler as he participates in choreographed, yet amazingly bloody, wrestling matches. He struggles to pay the rent while also searching for deeper meaning in his life as he knows that he can't wrestle forever. However, wrestling is the only thing he's good at, and he lives for those precious moments when he stands on the top turnbuckle and his adoring fans cheer his name – but once he steps out of the ring his life is a mess. He'd like to reconcile with estranged daughter Stefanie (played by Evan Rachel Wood) but she hates him after he abandoned her in her youth. He's never given her a birthday gift, probably because he doesn't know which day it is.

There's a parallel story with Cassidy, an aging stripper. She also knows that her career is coming to an end, but unlike The Ram she seems to have plans after she retires, and her finances are in good order. They've obviously known each other for quite some time, and though there seems to be some mutual attraction Cassidy has always followed the rule "don't get involved with a customer". They have a complex relationship that changes throughout the film, but you can always feel that Cassidy cares about his well-being.

This movie works because it feels so real. All the characters are so natural in their roles that you'll feel drawn into this world of wrestling. Mickey Rourke doesn't just play a wrestler, he is a wrestling star, he is Randy The Ram in every way. The wrestling scenes were also amazingly crafted and you can see Randy build off the crowd's excitement. The film does a great job of showing why so many fans love "fake" wrestling.

I thoroughly enjoyed this little film but it's not for all tastes. It's gritty, raw, sometimes depressing, sometimes funny, and yeah I'll admit that I cried. A 9.5/10 for me and it's a must-see for wrestling fans (especially from 1980s era) and, obviously, anyone who enjoyed the previous works of Aranofsky and/or Rourke. Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei were both outstanding and Evan Rachel Wood also shone in her supporting role.
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10/10
Honest to the core!
Natasha Bishop12 December 2008
I caught an advanced screening of The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke last night in Hollywood, CA. Following the screening was a Q&A session with Mickey Rourke, Darren Aronofsky, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, and film composer Clint Mansell.

Mickey Rourke delivers one of the most honest and heart breaking performances I've seen from an actor. Very rarely do you see an actor come back with such a role. He is truly extraordinary in The Wrestler. There are times in this film when I wonder just how much of this is Mickey in character as "The Ram" or Mickey reacting as Mickey to a situation similar to what he went through in his "lost years". The parallels are astounding. There is a scene when Randy "The Ram" is in the ring and he points to the audience "It is not over until you tell me it's over". Is it Mickey or Randy talking there? As a newly revived Mickey Rourke fan, I can tell you this audience member says it's just beginning Mickey!

Marissa Tomei delivers a stellar performance as an aging exotic dancer the parallel story to Mickey's character "The Ram". Evan Rachel Wood really brings it as "The Rams" angry, abandoned and emotionally exhausted daughter. The chemistry between Mickey and Evan is breath taking!

Darren Aronofsky delivers this story to us with honesty, realism and artistic skill. I think this young director will be around making fantastic films for some time to come. At least I hope he is!

You can't go wrong with this film. It is rock solid to the core!

Facts from the Q&A

Only the 3rd American Film to with the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

The film was made for $7 Million.

The filmscore is more atmospheric as the composer did not want to interfere with the documentary feel of the film.

Mickey Rourke trained for 6 months to get to the wrestling weight of 235 for the film. Weight training, wrestling training and eating 5,000 calories.

The scenes of Mickey Rourke and Evan Rachel Wood were as real as they could get. The actors put on music before the scene and just talked about their real life and Mickey's parallels to the film. When the director felt they were there he would yell action and they would work through the scene.

The scenes back stage with the wrestlers were all real as well. The crew would go to wrestling matches and film the wrestlers before/after matches. Mickey would walk in and introduce himself (in character) and the scene was improvised.

The film was about 20-30% improvisation from the actors.
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10/10
One of the best films of 2008
MovieAddict201631 December 2008
Enough has been written already about Mickey Rourke's real-life parallels with his fictional character in The Wrestler. Yes, it makes the story seem even realer, and is perhaps what attracted Rourke to the project. (Or perhaps not — perhaps, instead, it is what attracted Darren Aronofsky to the actor.) But to focus on such surface similarities seems like an undermining of his work here. Rourke may not be as out-of-his-comfort-zone as Sean Penn in Milk, the only other Oscar-worthy lead performance this year, but that is merely a testament to his fundamental understanding of his character: Randy is an understated guy with big scars, both literally and figuratively. He's been wrestling for years — now reduced to borderline tribute shows in front of dwindling crowds, scrounging up barely enough cash to buy the variety of drugs and steroids he needs to maintain his weight. He lives in a trailer park and gets locked out for not being able to keep up rent. He works part-time at a grocery store and visits strip clubs regularly, because it's the only place where he seemingly has any meaningful connections with another human being — namely the dancer Cassidy (played by Marisa Tomei), who is similarly a bit older than most peers in her "profession," yet doesn't really know any other way to live.

The Wrestler draws immediate comparison to the classics of working class cinema, including Rocky and On the Waterfront. Sylvester Stallone returned to his iconic character two years to bring resolution to the life of Rocky Balboa, the Philly boxer who got back in the ring for one final match . It was a good film and touched on similar themes — a nice guy stuck in a mean world, an estranged child– and ultimately both films present us with the dilemma these men find themselves in: too old to continue doing what they know best, and too old to learn how to do anything else.

Whereas Rocky Balboa was a trip down memory lane, it was hardly as bleak or frank as The Wrestler, which is a vastly superior film. Darren Aronofsky has established himself with this picture as one of the most important of modern American filmmakers; to acknowledge that this work is from the same man who directed The Fountain is astonishing, because they couldn't be farther apart on a sylistic level. The Wrestler is grainy, low-key and rough. It isn't polished, fantastical or elaborate. And that suits the material perfectly. The fact that Aronofsky was willing to almost entirely reinvent his approach for the benefit of the story is more than admirable. He deserves a nomination.

Tomei is wonderful in her supporting role, fleshing out her character (again, both literally and figuratively) with greater competence than most actresses would probably be able to manage, because it's a fairly obvious role — the "stripper with a heart of gold" who is the object of desire for the gruff guy with a tortured soul. Yet she manages to strike a balance in the film as one of two female roles, the other belonging to Evan Rachel Wood as Randy's emotionally severed daughter.

The Wrestler is impressive for all its smaller parts as well as the larger ones. When Randy goes to visit his daughter, the reaction is fleeting; it's not overly dramatic and revelatory, like most films of this nature often create such scenes to be. We can tell by her reaction that it's not the first time Randy has attempted to reconcile with her, as she seems unfazed by his appearance on her doorstep. It is in this fashion that the film jumps through all the mandatory hoops of its genre (think, of all things, The Royal Tenenbaums), yet still manages to seem fresh and realistic.

And then there's Rourke. As aforementioned, he deserves the Oscar nom he's likely to receive. And he should probably win. This is one of the best performances of the decade, perhaps even of all time, if we really want to get down to it. It's the best work of his career, at once the most fully developed of his characters and the most imperfect. Randy isn't airbrushed to make him seem more appealing to the audience; Aronofsky and Rourke exploit his faults and present him as a normal man, tempted by vices and haunted by his past. Yet we recognize that the drugs, the empty sex and the generally self-destructive behavior Randy partakes in is rooted in the same emotional enguish that the actor himself seems to carry with him; Aronofsky spotted this quality in Rourke, and he fought the producers for Rourke over their first choice (Nicolas Cage), and his dedication paid off — you'll be hard-pressed to find a more convincing, moving or memorable lead performance this year.

Ultimately, The Wrestler is one of the year's very best films — a character study that is at once timeless and powerful. And it's helmed by a director who has managed to bounce back from an aesthetically pleasing but shallow art-house film to produce one of the great works of American cinema in the 21st century.
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9/10
The Return of Mickey Rourke
M. J Arocena10 November 2008
Very rarely an artistic come back is so pointed, so truthful and/or so honest. Mickey Rourke is extraordinary here and I can assure you, he'll break your heart. "It's not over until you (pointing at the audience) tell me its over" Who was saying that? Mickey Rourke himself or his character? Both, I think both. I felt a chill run down my spine, the kind of chill you feel when confronted by an unvarnished truth. Darren Aronofsky is definitely someone to watch and to follow. His characters face limit situations and he finds torturous paths for them to travel. What makes the whole thing endurable is the unmistakable signs of self awareness. In "The Wrestler" the painful meeting between Ram and his daughter (played by Evan Rachel Wood) have the overwhelming weight of the truth without a hint of sentimentality. As we are approaching Oscar season I imagine already a fight to the finish between Sean Penn for "Milk" and Mickey Rourke for "The Wrestler" They both deserve the highest accolade. What a year!
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10/10
Powerful Performance by Mickey Rourke
preda0121 November 2008
The authenticity is the hallmark of this movie combined with vivid cinematography and set design. An amazing career-best performance from Mickey Rourke and outstanding work by Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood, the film is very powerful and emotional. Again, an exceptional achievement by a true artist-Rourke. His performance is so penetrating, wise, and authentic that it deserves the Oscar. Randy "The Ram" Robinson was the biggest wrestler in the world, back in the 80s. Now it's 2008 and while things have changed, in his head he's stuck back in good old days. He's still wrestling, even though the money and his audiences are long gone. His aging body can no longer take the punishment. Aronofsky really captures the magic in Mickey's performance. It is the true essence of method acting. He is "The Ram".
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9/10
Amazing film that focuses on two often misjudged professions.
Ludypro11 December 2008
Mickey Rourke returns to the big screen in Darren Aronofsky's brilliant character study, The Wrestler. Mickey Rourke gained about 35 pounds of muscle to play Randy 'The Ram' Robinson and looks the part of an old beaten down wrestler. Aronofsky creates a cold atmosphere that leaves the audience feeling as old and depressed as Rourke's character. The Wrestler doesn't have the look or feel of any previous Aronofsky film, it is mainly hand-held and has a gritty look to it that gives it a documentary feel. This film sucked me in. I really felt for the main character. I felt his pain and anger throughout the film. I felt his desperation. When a film has you reflecting the emotions expressed on the screen then it has accomplished something. I also appreciated that the story focused on two professions that are frowned upon in society, that being professional wrestling and stripping. Both professions are linked in the film and has the audience realize how similar they are. We also see the hardship of carrying out such a profession. I really enjoyed this film and had the pleasure of meeting the director after the showing. I was most impressed with him and can't wait till this film gets released.
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10/10
Indicative of Mickey Rourke's Career
alexkolokotronis29 January 2009
The Wrestler is a very good drama filled with originality. The film follows a fictional character named Randy "Ram" Robinson whose a "has been" wrestler. His prime far behind him and continues to wrestle hoping to get back in the lime light.

The acting Mickey Rourke was quite good deserving his Oscar nomination. His feelings of loneliness and isolation is very heart felt and sad to watch. His search for some sort of love becomes far more important to him as wrestling now endangers his life. He attempts to reconcile with his daughter played by Evan Rachel Wood and takes a love interest in a stripper played very well by Marisa Tomei. Altogether it culminates into a very sad, open but yet satisfying ending. The authenticity of all the emotions could not be better displayed by any other actor than Mickey Rourke who like his character shares many experiences and hardships in order to get back to fame. It brings out an amazing amount of depth out of his character and simply pushes the film to that of the least a very good movie.

The direction of Darren Aronofsky and writing of Robert Siegel combined for an amazingly heart felt sympathy portrayal of a man. The movie is left open yet simultaneously feels as if its all we need to know. That we've gotten what we need to see and can figure out things for ourselves. The abrasive and gritty look of the movie only adds to the emotions felt for the character. Usually I would not mention this at all but Bruce Springsteen's song was a superb song for the movie as he always captures the scope of a movie and its complicity.

Hopefully this film will set up Mickey Rourke for more films to make as he has certainly convinced me here that hes worthy of more lead roles. His comeback story is compelling in that he was literally a forgotten soul up until this was made. He reputation had dispersed so much that it took years of searching for distributors from Darren Aronofsky that would accept Mickey Rourke as the lead actor. Well it certainly payed off and it shouldn't of been made any other way.
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10/10
Wow!!!
kurt-haider8 September 2008
I saw the movie at the world premiere in Venice and Mickey Rourke, Darren Aronofsky and other crew members were also in the audience. When the credits began, people were jumping out of their seats (including me) applauding and cheering for more than 15 minutes. It was really amazing. I have been a Rourke fan for 10 years now and to me Darren Aronofsky is one of the greatest directors of the last ten years. So when I entered the cinema my expectations were as high as never before. But this 40 Euro ticket was worth every cent. I never saw such a moving performance by "Sir Eddie Cook" who played Randy "the Ram" with such authenticity that I was paralyzed for almost two hours. And that's because Rourke isn't just playing "Ram", he IS "Ram", at least a part of him (there are many parallels to his real troubled past). Aronofsky really did a great job and really pushed the actors to their limits. It is amazing to see how a good director can turn such a simple story into one of the greatest movies I have ever seen (and I watch hundreds of movies). So everybody who grew up in the 80's with wrestling, hard rock and Nintendo or just loves movies should see this - at least ten times. God bless you Darren, Mickey and all the other crew members for the best cinema experience I have ever had. no doubt about it.
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6/10
Terrific performances, but the story is pretty formulaic
anhedonia16 February 2009
There is no denying that Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler features two tremendous performances by Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei. But there's also no denying that former The Onion editor Robert Siegel's screenplay is rather conventional, plot-wise. And that does hamper this film.

Which is perhaps why Academy Award voters decided not to nominate "The Wrestler" for Best Picture or Siegel's screenplay. If you look at the other original screenplay nominees - Courtney Hunt for "Frozen River," Mike Leigh for "Happy-Go-Lucky," Martin McDonagh for "In Bruges," Dustin Lance Black for "Milk" and Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon for "Wall-E" - conventional or formulaic they certainly are not.

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy "The Wrestler." It is great to see Rourke back and acting to his fullest potential. Not only is this a juicy, meaty role - though some might argue he really isn't acting but simply being himself - but it is such a far cry that some of the crappy movies he came to be known for.

Perhaps it is because Rourke finds such a personal connection to Randy "The Ram" Robinson in "The Wrestler" that he is able to truly tap into the character's deepest fears and insecurities. Rourke is completely convincing as the once-famous, now washed-up wrestler peddling his talents at dingy venues and trying to eke out a living at mediocre autograph sessions. There's genuine angst in Rourke's performance and it is one that certainly propels the film forward.

Tomei, too, turns in a stunning performance as Cassidy, a stripper more by circumstance than by choice. It is a bravura turn by this one romantic-comedy lead. She has matured brilliantly as an actress and there really isn't a false note in her performance.

But then there's Siegel's screenplay. I realize there are tons of people who absolutely adore this film and my reaction to the movie isn't by any means meant to demean their adoration.

"The Wrestler" starts out well and, for the first 30 minutes or so, kept me wondering where it was heading. It had a few genuinely nice surprises. But then comes the scene in the dressing room after a match. When that happened, I immediately knew how a conventional writer would unwind the plot. I hoped this film wouldn't, but it did. Everything I expected would happen happened. The twists, the turns, the character revelations - nothing that came after surprised me and that was a huge disappointment.

I would have expected something novel from Aronofsky, but he clings to Siegel's formulaic script and provides us with nothing that we couldn't have anticipated. I kept waiting for something to change my mind, but nothing did.

So what we're left to marvel at are Rourke's and Tomei's remarkably honest and, at times, brutally so, performances. And what I was left wondering was how much better, more trenchant, this film could have been with a more original screenplay.
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9/10
Top-notch, exhilarating, jarring, authentic
Dan Franzen (dfranzen70)30 December 2008
In Darren Aronofsky's brilliant character drama The Wrestler, Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) is a down-and-almost-out pro wrestler who grapples with his own mortality and a fear of being alone and desperate. Rourke is phenomenal, delivering a powerful, highly physical performance that will knock your socks off as much as if he'd clotheslined you himself. Rourke's Randy is intrepid, a scarred battle cruiser who desperately needs to be in the ring to survive, a man who's emotions are kept as close to the vest as possible, a man with nothing else going for him other than his time in the spotlight.

The Ram, probably an amalgam of several real-life wrestlers (chief among them, Randy "Macho Man" Savage), is a relic of the 1980s, a man who wistfully counts the scars and cuts on his body and remembers with great fondness his greatest ring moment, a pay-per-view battle against The Ayatollah. But twenty years later, he's wrestling in high-school gymnasiums, barely able to put on a decent show but still basking in any glory he can find. But the gigs hardly pay at all, and more than once The Ram is unable to pay the rent on his mobile home.

Meanwhile, two people enter (and reenter) Randy's life. Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) is a stripper at a low-rent club that Randy frequents. Cassidy is just about the only person in the world that Randy can talk to; he's lonely, spending most of his postmatch time either drinking alone or patching up any new wounds. He's treading water; with no life outside of wrestling, he's just trying to make it through the night intact.

Reentering Randy's life is his long-estranged daughter, played by Evan Rachel Wood, who's hated her dad for years after he abandoned the family. Randy, in case you're still not certain, is not meant to be an entirely sympathetic figure; you know why he is how he is, and you do feel bad for him, but you also understand that just about everything that's made him who he is today is due to his own decisions. The Ram is not a victim.

Aside from the simple I'm-getting-too-old-for-this angle, there's a serious medical angel that presents itself early in the movie - keep on wrestling, the doctor warns, and you'll likely die in the ring. And to his credit, Randy does attempt to stop his own livelihood, but he quickly - and harshly - realizes how incredibly difficult that is. The real world doesn't want him, The Ram thinks. They only want what's in the ring.

Rourke is outstanding, perhaps sparking his own career renaissance, and Tomei is simply terrific as Cassidy. Tomei is a perfect physical fit for the role of the rapidly aging stripper; she's still gorgeous, but there are just enough lines on her face to make her age believable. Tomei continues to make excellent role choices, and she completely knocks this one out of the park. Her Cassidy hurts as much on the inside - and what movie stripper doesn't? - as Randy appears to on the outside, and they have much in common. It's gratifying to see Cassidy's feelings toward Randy evolve throughout the movie.

There are also several matches featuring The Ram, one of which should really appeal to wrestling fans: a hardcore match. In this kind of match, literally anything goes - barbed wire, windows, tables, chairs, anything. Yes, we all know that pro wrestling is fake, but it's fake really only in terms of the final outcome, with just a few guidelines worked out between the competitors beforehand (e.g., I'll hit you low, then you leg whip me). And of course these particular matches were staged and scripted, but man did they ever look real. You want to see something scary, check out Randy after the hardcore match, when staples - from a staple gun - are removed from his body.

The Wrestler is a gritty, raw look at one man's desire to keep on keepin' on, trying to survive the only way that's still open to him, while trying desperately to connect with someone emotionally as he ages. It's heartwarming but also heart-wrenching, and the somewhat-ambiguous ending is sure to confound people who like their movies to end tidily. It's a masterpiece for Rourke, another tour-de-force for Tomei, and an award-worthy effort for Aronofsky.
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8/10
Mickey Rourke's Resurrection
hassa_316 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Rarely does a talent like Mickey Rourke get a second chance at stardom. As the star of popular 80s films such as "The Pope of Greenwich Village" and "Nine ½ Weeks," Rourke was on the verge of super-stardom when addiction to drugs and alcohol left him a "broken down piece of meat." But we don't want to hate Mickey, we love Mickey. He stole the show in Sin City a few years back but now he has completely returned to top form. We are looking at the Hollywood version of Lazarus.

The Wrestler is one of the most gripping and emotional films of the past few years – it's brutally honest and very realistic in how it tackles its subject matter. The film is so realistic it feels like a true documentary on underground wrestling. The camera follows Rourke's character, Randy "The Ram" Robinson, inside and outside the ring and stays close at all times. He may be playing a wrestler here but this is not WWE. There's no championship belt, the life he leads is by no means glamorous. He gets locked out of his trailer for not paying rent, he has a struggling love relationship with a stripper by night./mother by day and the only family he has, his daughter, doesn't even want to talk to him.

Rourke is the star here, he makes the film great. The raw intensity in his emotions connects with everyone in the theater and those who appreciate good art will be left breathless by his performance. The Ram is a gladiator, a gentle giant, trying to reclaim the success of his past. Maybe it's because it mirrors Mickey's own resurrection that we find his character so intriguing, but nonetheless the man bears his soul in this very entertaining film. There is such an emotional complexity to his character, by the last frames of the picture – the audience feels like they've been apart of something special.
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8/10
The role Mickey Rourke was born to play
Superunknovvn27 February 2009
"The Wrestler" is a beautiful movie, but it wouldn't be half as good if Mickey Rourke hadn't given the main character a face and a heart. There's virtually no other Hollywood actor that could have embodied Randy "The Ram" Robinson as perfectly as Rourke, and it's shocking to think how the movie could have turned out had someone else, say Bruce Willis or - as originally planned - Nicolas Cage played the part. With Rourke it's not so much an actor memorizing lines and delivering them convincingly, it's like watching a guy having gone through hell and now showing his scars. Rourke's performance even lets one overlook some rather clichéd elements in the story (the exotic dancer with a golden heart, the neglected daughter, a dance in a romantic dilapidated ballroom). It's all good, because one look at Randy's face reminds us of all the hits and punches he must have taken in the past, and it all becomes real again.

So, Rourke obviously makes the movie, but that's not the only remarkable thing. Besides a very good performance by the beautiful Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler" is also worth mentioning because it marks the first time Darren Aronofsky has made a straight forward drama that's not heavy headed or laden with too much symbolism. After the highly pretentious "The Fountain" such a movie was more than due. "The Wrestler" proves that Aronofsky is not only capable of stylistic extravaganza, but can also handle the art of "plain" storytelling.

The fine title song by Bruce Springsteen must not be forgotten, either. After "Streets Of Philadelphia" and "Dead Man Walking" this is his third soundtrack contribution that captures the feel of a movie beautifully. Props to Aronofsky for putting an emphasis on that song by letting it play over a black screen for a couple of seconds before the closing credits start to roll.

In the end, "The Wrestler" is such a huge success because Aronofsky made the right choice by insisting on Rourke to play the main role, and because Rourke more than lived up to the director's expectations. Sean Penn may have been very good in "Milk", but the character of The Wrestler is a thousand times more interesting and memorable, and considering that fact that Rourke will forever be remembered for this great performance, he would really have deserved the Oscar.
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8/10
Charisma, heart, and hard work make a comeback of a has-been
Chris Knipp2 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Billed as Mickey Rourke's big comeback, this film is the finale presentation of the New York Film Festival 2008. Awarded in Venice and shown at Toronto, it features a winning performance by Rourke. It's a simple story, a mixture of raw authenticity and old fashioned corn about a washed up professional wrestler who's 20 years past his prime and resists admitting it till he has a heart attack and is forced t turn to the only two people he has in his life, a lap dancer and an estranged daughter. It's pretty monochromatic and claustrophobic, but the tiny framework shows off Rourke's generous, authoritative performance. Rourke's weathered, soulful face and sweet-sad smile sell the movie.

Early scenes establish that Randy 'The Ram' Robinson (Rourke), who has long graying bleach-blond hair and wears a hearing aid, still has fans from his heyday in the 80's and warm contacts in the pro wrestler community of today, who give him work on weekends. He's well liked (kids in his neighborhood clamor around him), and takes life's hard knocks with patience--and that smile.

But all is not well. The first night we see him after a fight locked out of his trailer because he owes the manager money. He lives alone, has a shaky relationship with a lap dancer, work name Cassidy (Marisa Tomei). His lesbian daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), who's in school, despises him for not being there when he was needed. We're in the world of numbed pain and charred, sealed-away emotions here.

The second evening of fights pits the Ram against an S/M wrestler who uses a staple gun on him, and broken glass, and barbed wire. Ram collapses after this fight and wakes up in intensive care after a bypass operation. The hospital is the real beginning of the film, though Rourke and the filmmakers are over-committed to the wrestling scene, and stage more painful and realistic bouts, in which all the fighters other than Rourke were professionals.

Ram realizes he's not the man he was. The doctor has told him he can't wrestle any more. He tries to jog and can't. Helpless and alone, he turns to Cassidy (whose real name is Pam), but she is reluctant to admit he's more than a customer. He visits his daughter, but she is extremely hostile. In just a couple scenes, Evan Rachel Wood is raw and powerful. Tomei is authentic too, having mastered the lap-dancing technique and assimilated its world's mix of sensuality and distance. Rourke/Ram's encounters with both women are painful and memorable.

There's a good sense of context, even though Ram's world as shown is narrow. "The 90's f----ing sucked!" he exclaims to Cassidy when he finally coaxes her into having a beer with him outside the club. He hates that bastard Kurt Cobain. Axel Rose was The Man. You realize she's as washed up as he is. She has a 9-year-old kid and wants to quit and somehow get into a condo.

The screenplay by Roy Siegel, an original editor of The Onion, has lightness and humor to undercut the melodrama and doom. Ram is a laugh when, after the heart attack, he starts working longer hours at the Jersey Dollar's deli counter, doling out potato salad and ham, joking with the man and flattering the women.

Finally after he is pushed away by Cassidy/Pam, on a bad day at the deli, Ram flashily quits and calls a promoter and countermands his resignations, saying the re-match with "The Ayatollah" is on again. The Aronofsky of 'Requiem for a Dream' set a record for determinism, and it's hard not to see this Wrestler as doomed. But the filmmakers' and and cast's involvement in the milieu and Rourke's humility and charm undercut that enough so the final sequence is uncertain and interesting. And all the fights are good.

The title 'The Wrestler' can be generic because unlike boxing films, wrestling ones are rare, indeed nonexistent. Rourke himself is a boxer; the switchover wasn't easy, but he had the athletic background, and not only that, the has-been life of his character, a washed-up star in an activity looked down on by all but rabid fans. Few think of it even as a sport, though it requires conditioning and skill and involves constant injuries. In the NYFF Q&A Rourke conveyed a sense of his respect for this activity as a sport, and Aronofsky reported that his work on the mat won the approval of the pros. If this is an iconic performance as some are saying, it's not just Rourke's personal identification with the character's comeback mode, but good hard technical work to make it all authentic.
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7/10
Heartbreaking
Kristine6 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
OK, after all the talk, literally, talk after talk of how wonderful Mickey Rourke's performance was in The Wrestler and that he's finally back in action. So I just had to see what all the hype was, especially after everyone started panicking when Sean Penn took the 2009 Oscar for Milk, I was curious if this movie really was as good as everyone was making it to be. So I'm going to give my honest opinion which either is going to get me a lot of hate mail or the "un-useful" marks on my comment, but I'm an honest user, I tell it like it is. The Wrestler is actually a really good movie, I would say that it was one of the top 10 that came out of 2008, but one thing that I really didn't like about the movie was the way it was made and the ending, which I'll explain why in a moment. Mickey Rourke does pull in a top performance, including Marisa Tomei, they took us on this heartbreaking story and made the movie into a small gem.

Randy "The Ram" Robinson, is a professional wrestler who was a major star in the 1980s but is now years past his prime and wrestling on the weekends for various independent promotions. Randy goes home and is locked out of his trailer for not paying the rent. Depressed, he takes pain medication and falls asleep in the back of his van. At night he visits a strip club where he has befriended a faded stripper named Pam, stage-named Cassidy. He continues the training rituals for his wrestling appearance, including steroid use and self-tanning. At his next show, Randy wrestles a brutal hardcore match, in which he and his opponent attack each other with thumbtacks, staple guns, barbed wire and glass. Post-match, Randy is treated for his wounds backstage, but he suffers a heart attack soon after and collapses. The heart attack necessitates a bypass operation and Randy is told by the doctor that his weakened heart cannot stand the stresses of steroids or wrestling. Randy cancels his upcoming matches and begins working as a deli counter operator at a supermarket. Randy visits his estranged daughter, Stephanie, whom he had left years before; she curses him and tells him to leave her alone. On his second visit to his daughter, Randy brings a thoughtful gift and admits that he has been a bad father; things seem to brighten up for him, but after a rough night, everything goes down hill for him again.

Now my two complaints, the way the movie was made, I understand what Darren Aronofsky was going for where he was trying to make us feel the realism, as if he was filming a day in our lives. But seeing the back of Mickey Rourke's head walking to work didn't exactly feel necessary to me, then there are scenes that cut too fast and made me do a double take. Then the ending, a lot of people are praising the ending, now I'm a huge film buff and I very much appreciate when a film leaves the audience with what they will give the to the movie. But for Randy's story, I felt like it was left incomplete, with him just doing his signature move and they cut to black, this is one of the stories I wished would have come to a complete circle where we see this poor man who's just broken down and find out what happened to him. I guess people are going to call this review stupid and think that I didn't understand it or don't appreciate the "imagination" factor, but honestly it's one of those endings I just felt a little cheated. But it is the performances that made this movie for me, they were real and gritty. It's the actors and the story that make The Wrestler worth watching.

7/10
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Heartache Of A Broken Down Piece Of Meat
Chrysanthepop28 February 2009
'The Wrestler' starts off with an introduction of Randy The Ram, 20 years ago when he was a star who had everything going for him in the professional field. Then it jumps to present day where the camera is held behind Randy's head, showing us what he sees. The execution of 'The Wrestler' is different from Aronofsky's other films. It has a less polished look and the hand-held camera gives it a documentary feel but at the same time Randy's private moments feel real rather than staged. The use of background music is very limited. The movie has a sort of cold, gloomy and depressive atmospheric feel which is exactly how Randy experiences his surroundings). The well shot and choreographed wrestling scenes are brutal and graphic. Even though the wrestlers are shown to be friendly outside the ring and what goes on inside is really a 'performance', the blood is real, and so is the pain.

Siegel's writing is solid and Aronofsky's portrayal of the character is quite remarkable. Randy The Ram isn't a caricature aggressive wrestler who's hooked on drugs and shagging every women that comes his way. He's depicted quite a nice guy, with good friends in his field of profession and the kids in his neighborhood look up to him. He's quite friendly and is in love with a stripper, Cassidy. But, Cassidy tries to strictly abide by the rule not to socialize with customers. Yet, she cares about him.

Interestingly, her story parallels with Randy's. She's also aging in her profession and her time is almost up. But, unlike the former wrestler, she is prepared and has plans for the future. Whereas Randy is more unfortunate and he struggles to make it in the real world as his attempts fail.

'The Wrestler' grips one right from the start and involves the viewer in the protagonist's life. It feels eerily real. The acting is so natural. Mickey Rourke gives the performance of a lifetime. He looks the part, exudes the energy, brings compassion and is difficult to recognize which makes it all the more easy to forget that you are actually watching an actor act. Marisa Tomei is fantastic as Rourke's semi-counterpart. Evan Rachel Wood shines as Randy's estranged daughter.

I have admired Aronofsky for his attempt in making different kinds of cinema and giving us great movies and 'The Wrestler' is no disappointment at all. It is a brutally honest piece of cinema. Aronofsky is a remarkable filmmaker and 'The Wrestler' is another proof of that.
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8/10
good movie
funkyfry23 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I really enjoyed this movie, which tells the tale of Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke), a former big-time pro wrestler fallen on hard times, most of which seem to be the result not of bad luck but bad planning and bad habits. Forced to compete in violent and dangerous stunt matches with other former big-timers and young wannabe wrestlers.

It's the first film about pro wrestling that I've seen which shows the amount of brotherhood that exists between many of the wrestlers, the amount of planning and skill that goes into the matches, and so forth. It's also a story about a once great athlete, and so at times it veers or threatens to veer into rather standard melodramatic territory. For instance, the sub-plot with Randy's daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) is fraught with peril but I'd say they did an OK job of it. I definitely like the Marisa Tomei character, even if the stripper with a heart of gold is sort of a cliché. I think Tomei and Rourke were able not only to put over a role that could be considered a stereotype, but to make a statement on the idea of typing in general. They are just such unique personages in terms of how they come off the screen, it defies the way that we tend to see each other in life in terms of very standard types. Randy is at the same time not what he seems at first to be and also the ultimate version of what he seems to be -- a fallen champion desperate to get back on top, but without the goods he needs to do it.

The music is fun and a blast to hear after all these years, even if it wasn't my favorite at the time. I imagine there are lots of younger people today discovering the joys of Guns N' Roses and various bands like that thanks to this film which shows them in the same kind of nostalgic but steady-eyed perspective as Randy himself. People like "The Ram" were the rulers of the world when I was a little kid in the 80s, and it's sad to think about some of them really falling from those positions. We could look at the pathetic aspects of Randy's life but at the same time he actually accomplished more than a lot of people ever do. The fact that he couldn't maintain a personal life ended up making the whole thing bitter and pointless in the end. Rourke performs the part perfectly, with a sense of pride and no regrets, a man waking up to certain realities that he's spent a lot of time and money trying to avoid.
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Have you ever seen a broken man...
loco_7321 January 2009
If the phrase "the little movie that could" applies to any movie this year then it most certainly does to "The Wrestler". It is one of the best movies I've seen last year, and more than that it is even more special due to the brilliant and amazing performance of its cast.

The return of Mickey Rourke was overdue, a gifted and talented actor, who in my opinion was wrongly shunned and marginalized because of his past attitude and behaviour which marked him as a "bad boy". Hollywood surely likes to sometimes punish its own, especially those individuals who don't repent and crawl on their knees asking for "cinematic forgiveness" from their peers. What happened to Mickey Rourke was pure hypocrisy on the part of an industry that has no problem tolerating much, much worse behaviour on the part of less talented individuals; an industry that from time to time seeks to attain some kind of superficial saving grace marked by a phony mea culpa and a symbolic sacrificial lamb, in this case Mickey Rourke. I ask, how is what he did any different than the behaviour of let's say Lindsay Lohan, whom many critics where at one point anointing her as the next Jody Foster or Merryl Streep?!?!? Talk about self-imposed blindness! When I last saw Rourke in "Sin City", I was, albeit briefly but forcefully reminded, of how good of an actor he really is. So imagine my pleasure and anticipation when "The Wrestler" came out! At heart this is a story of redemption, but here comes the kick, it is actually an attempt and ultimate failure at redemption, at least in the sense that redemption is understood in today's society. This is a profoundly sad movie, but that fact does not take away one bit from the movie, rather it makes it more believable and even more powerful.

As Bruce Springsteen's song by the same title points out, there are some wrongs that can't be righted and some wounds that can't be mended, and that is the situation Mikey Rourke's character finds himself in. I don't want to discuss the movie in detail, nor give anything away from the plot or storyline, suffice to say that this is one viewing that is more than worth sitting through from beginning to end.

Rourke, Marisa Tomei (another grossly underrated actress) and Evan Rachel Wood are phenomenal and really hold their own and make the most of their on-screen time. Whatever award nominations and wins these actors are likely to get are more than deserved. Darren Aronofsky has really grown by leaps and bounds in his solid and varied career as director. I am personally glad that he decided to helm this project, the end result speaks for itself.

Ultimately there is redemption to be found in this movie, but it comes at a heavy price, to me that redemption takes the form of the triumph of the human spirit against insurmountable odds and seemingly impossible choices. These days that is a bold statement to make!
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10/10
TIFF 08: Sacrificial ram…The Wrestler
jaredmobarak17 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It's a fascinating thought I had going into Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler, screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. I began to worry that a straightforward tale may not be playing to the director's strengths. It wasn't until the end credits that I recalled Requiem For a Dream being an adaptation and his debut π being pretty grounded in reality despite its surrealistic tendencies. So in actuality, the guy had only made one non-straightforward film, and all to immense success, at least in my eyes. So, as of now, the guy is four for four. Not only does Mickey Rourke own the screen every second of the movie, but Aronofsky lends just the right amount of his stamp on the proceedings, creating a definite top ten inclusion for my end of year list and, by far, the best film I had seen at the festival.

The story deals with an aging professional wrestler, a man that was a champion and idol in his heyday. Beaten and battered, Randy "The Ram" Robinson finds himself doing small venues on the weekends, trying to relive past glory and entertain the fans still out there, while working at a grocery store during the week. Not having stopped with the working out, he also continues to take any drugs necessary to keep his physique as well as numb the pain of what ails him. Money is tight, the camps' landlord locks him out of his trailer; family is non-existent, his daughter wants nothing to do with him; and the only real human interaction he has is from a stripper (Marisa Tomei's Cassidy) he pays more for an ear to talk than for the lapdances. The Ram remembers the past—an old action figure of himself stands on his van's dash—and does his best to keep it in the front of his mind. A wonderful example comes when he yells out his trailer to a neighborhood kid; asking if wants to play Nintendo. The two play a boxing game, Robinson of course as himself, while the boy talks about the new Call of Duty game coming out on Playstations, et al. This gap in culture and reality never hits him hard, though, as he loves the decade that built him too much.

It is a heart attack that finally wakes Rourke's character from his long slumber of indifference and living without consequence. With a masterstroke of subtlety, Aronofsky begins to show his hand at this point. We begin to look around the locales The Ram visits. An autograph session is one example, rather than like the beginning, watching two enthusiastic fans get his signature and talk to each other about how nice a guy he is, we now watch a pan across the room at those selling their John Hancocks. Some of the wrestlers are older than he, and others not, however, they all have one thing in common—a slow dismantling of their bodies from the hard, fast lifestyle they lived. We see canes, wheelchairs, sorrow, and pain etched in every face. The Ram finally realizes the risk he takes each time he steps in that ring and decides to retool his life for the future by attempting to rekindle a relationship with his daughter, a nice performance from Evan Rachel Wood; maybe start one with Cassidy, for real, not at the club; and take an invested interest at making a career out of the grocery store gig. It all helps establish a feeling that it could all be working out for him.

The story is not that simple, though. What really hit home for me was the absolute frankness and unsentimental tone The Wrestler truly portrays. A great line comes with Rourke in the ring, about to fight, despite someone telling him he doesn't have to get hurt; he can stop. The Ram just looks back and says, "I only get hurt out there," pointing to the outside world. That ring is his safe haven, the one place he is loved unconditionally by fans and peers alike, the ropes serving as walls against the prejudices, looks, and pain awaiting him out in the real world. He is a wrestler to the bone, expressed earlier with a viciously orchestrated battle involving tables, staple guns, and barbed wire. The entire film is really just a slice of life following The Ram around as he figures out the path that works for him. Sometimes the costume is the real person—just ask Superman—and to go back to being Robin Randinski becomes too much to handle.

It's a performance worthy of award and a tale succeeding on all counts. Aronofsky is not shy to work some magic, nor afraid to let the story take control when necessary. All the glamour and celebrity is there along with the flip side of the coin when gravity kicks in. An amazing experience to be sure, you won't want to get up at its conclusion, (the wonderful new Bruce Springsteen song definitely helps this fact), instead staying to contemplate what has happened and what might happen, as the filmmakers throw a question mark at you. Whether Randy "The Ram" Robinson is content, we will never know, but one thing we do is that he lived without regret. It may not have all turned out the way he wanted, but in the end he a man that will not, that cannot, change. And he doesn't have to.
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8/10
Well done!!
MissyH31631 July 2011
As someone who's a fan and who has actually worked behind the scenes in pro wrestling, I can tell you that Randy "The Ram" Robinson's story is a very respectful and realistic portrayal of the toll pro wrestling takes on its stars' lives. Certainly not everyone in the biz ends up as destitute and lonely as Randy was - some do, definitely - but those who end up well-off in every sense of the word (like Hulk Hogan, John Cena, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock, for instance) are VERY, VERY rare. Most end up somewhere in between.

Interestingly, as precarious as Randy's health became, however, if he were in his mid-50's (as was Mickey Rourke at the time), he still had a longer pro wrestling career than many others who abused their body likewise. Randy still was made up of some very tough stuff and in fact beat the odds with his career length.

When asked "is pro wrestling fake?", I always answer, "only where it needs to be" - i.e., the story lines and SOME of the action. No one deliberately sets out to end another one's career, but like any other contact sport such as pro football, the athleticism and subsequent pain & injury are all TOO real. There's no "off season" in pro wrestling, and certainly no astronomically high salaries as other pro athletes make - not by a long shot. But in pro wrestling you'll find the best athletes in the world.

Bottom line: It's a brutal business and an extremely hard way to make a living - period. That's why the men and women who stick with it and suffer all they do is for one reason only - because they love it. May God bless them all. :)
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9/10
As Good As Billed
ramsfan28 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
There is no greater blow to the ego of a once formidable athlete or entertainer than when the cheers stop. "The Wrestler" is a poignant film because it touches on two fears most people have at some point in their lives: irrelevance and loneliness. Former pro wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson (wonderfully played by Mickey Rourke)was once a superstar but now is a broken down, financially strapped has-been living in a trailer. He is estranged from his teenage daughter, whom he left years ago. His only meaningful relationship is with stripper Cassidy, herself a middle aged person in a profession filled with younger competition. When a heart attack forces Ram to stop wrestling, he realizes just how difficult it is to transition away from the only life he's ever known.

Rourke's humane portrayal of "The Ram" engenders immediate viewer sympathy. He is a tragic figure, his heyday long gone. He sadly muddles through life a lonely, washed up ex-wrestler playing sparsely attended venues and working as a part time grocery store employee. Perhaps the saddest part of the film is his failed reconciliation with his daughter. While having empty sex and taking cocaine after an event, he accidentally stands her up on a dinner date, destroying the sliver of trust he'd built up and ending any chance of ever having a relationship with her. Unable to live comfortably and conventionally in an uncaring world, Ram goes back into the ring for one final battle.

One does not have to be a wrestling fan to appreciate this film. "The Wrestler" reminds us what can happen when we wrap too much of ourselves into our profession and do not maintain balance in our lives. Rourke perfectly embodies the washed up ex-athlete looking to find his way and in my opinion was cheated out of an Oscar; the Academy instead going for the "safe" pick in Sean Penn. No matter, however, "The Wrestler" is very well done.
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9/10
Heartbreaking....Amazingly Crafted
yjalil5 September 2009
The Wrestler is probably Rourke's defining work to date. He shows a depth to his acting that his rarely come through in his earlier films (including the excellent Sin City). The story evolves gently, deliberately, notwithstanding the interjection of the violence surrounding the wrestling matches. Most importantly, the director does an excellent job of showing the mutual respect and camaraderie that exists among professional wrestlers - a code of honor that ultimately attracts and keeps Rourke's character engaged in the world of wrestling 20+ years after he has passed his prime. The storyline also does an excellent job of helping viewers empathize with why fans like what they probably know is pre-scripted wrestling, and finds a chord of genuine-ness in their cheers and emotions. This chord of truth in fans' adoration and emotion is what the Rourke character finds so difficult to pull himself away from, and at the end, why this seems more "real" to him than the real-world. As the movie progresses, it becomes clear that the professionals wrestlers - men line Rourke's character share a higher code of honor among themselves and genuinely look out for each other. Outside of this world of peers, the Ram is completely dysfunctional and unable to operate any of his relationships effectively - whether with would-be girlfriend Cassidy (Pam)or daughter Stephanie. Ultimately, the story is heart-wrenching, and it draws its viewers in, unfolding with great heart and emotion, just like its protagonist. Highly recommended!!
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