The Wrestler

Posted by schnolis on January 7th, 2009 filed in Reviews

The_WrestlerI had heard plenty of things about this film, almost all of them positive. Whenever possible I tune out most of this, or ignore it, because high expectations can ruin a movie that’s merely better than average. I was fortunate in being able to see it with a mostly full theater at a preview showing, the room buzzing with chatter and the excitement palpable. As the hushed silence fell over the audience and the opening credits rolled, I couldn’t help but thinking, “Is this going to be as good as everyone said?”

From the very opening credits to the final scene was a dark pleasure. At almost every moment it felt like a documentary. The camera stayed immediately behind Randy “the Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) for much of the movie, like a side-kick. It felt intimate, personal and lonely. The wrestling scenes themselves were amazing, too. The camera stayed zoomed in tight on the action and highlighted the real exertion involved in producing such a dramatic and physically challenging show.

When I left the theater I didn’t think it was quite as good as the hype. I haven’t stopped thinking about it for days, though, remembering so many scenes and how well done everything was. This movie, like all the Darren Aronofsky films I’ve seen, is going to stay with me for a long time. Beyond all of that though is the most incredible spectacle of all: the physical transformation by Mickey Rourke into an aging, muscle-bound wrestler.

The story itself is pretty straightforward. Randy is a wrestler probably somewhere late in his 40s, certainly well past his prime. He was once on top of the wrestling world, but later falls onto harder times. Instead of playing to packed stadiums, he wrestles in front of miniscule audiences in community centers and signs autographs for pocket change in small gyms. The real story begins when his career is threatened by injury.

What I liked: The desperate realism, the attention to detail. Getting to like “The Ram”. The body transformation by Mickey Rourke is truly incredible; I forgot so many times this wasn’t actually a lifetime wrestler but an actor (however athletic). The opening credits sequence.

What I disliked: Scenes where the Ram was not directly involved. Nearly every scene in the film took place with The Ram in the scene or from his first person perspective. Scenes without him seemed out of place and made me remember I was watching a movie.

Rating: 9 of 10

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