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The Wrestler is a Powerful Drama of a Man Facing His Own Mortality

Updated on August 20, 2016

The Wrestler

Wrestling may be staged, but wrestlers are still athletes.
Wrestling may be staged, but wrestlers are still athletes. | Source

Credits

The Wrestler (2008): Rated PG-13 (1 hours, 38 minutes)

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Mark Margolis, Todd Barry

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Mickey Rourke

Back in ‘08, Mickey Rourke who, after having a critically-acclaimed early acting career was — by all accounts — all but completely washed up as an actor, was cast (ironically enough) as an all-but washed up wrestler who was — oh so desperately — attempting to hang onto a wrestling career that he sees as slipping away from him. Well, in case you were asleep through the post ‘08 awards season, the role essentially resurrected his stature in the eyes of Hollywoodland, and put him back on the map.

The Wrestler [Blu-ray]

The Wrestler [Blu-ray]
The Wrestler [Blu-ray]

Mickey Rourke gives the performance of a lifetime as pro wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a former superstar now paying the price for twenty years of grueling punishment in and out of the ring. But he's about to risk everything to prove he has one more match left in him: a re-staging of his famous Madison Square Garden bout against "The Ayatollah." Darren Aronofsky directs a powerful cast in this action-packed saga of guts, glory and gritty determination that is "as irresistible as a headlock" (New York Post ).

 

Yes, Wrestlers are Professionals

As stated, the compelling drama is about an aging professional wrestler named Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Rourke), who is several years past his prime, and now he just barely ekes out a living by scoring work at much smaller wrestling shows, selling videos, DVDs, and photo-ops in VFW halls around the countryside. As his wrestling gigs have shrunk in stature he and he is forced to take a part-time job in a local grocery store. As he faces a growing health problem that may end his wrestling career for good he begins to take stock of his life and starts to deal with his real life, outside the ring.

The Wrestler - Official Trailer

Attempting Redemption

One of the parts of his life that he is attempting to reconcile with is attempting to reconnect with the daughter, Stephanie, (Wood) that he abandoned in her childhood. Seems that Randy was not the best dad ever (surprise, surprise), and all but totally neglected his parental duties, something that Stephanie apparently grew up resenting (again, a “surprise”), so now that he sees himself at the end of the line, he is doing what he can (badly — a gain a surprise) to do what he can to bridge the unbridgeable. On another front, he is also attempting to not just hook up with a stripper, Cassidy (Tomei) that he has been frequenting at a local club, but form a deeper, more-personal, shall we say intimate, relationship with her. As it can be expected (given the way everything else is going on in Randy’s life) it turns out, the while Randy has romantic feelings for Cassidy (who has a kid, which Randy didn’t know), he has — in fact — over-estimated her attraction and desire to have an interpersonal relationship for him while she is not at work (and, you know, earning tips).

Swan Diving From the Ropes

Get ready for the Boom!
Get ready for the Boom! | Source

The Set Up

Meanwhile, as Randy struggles with his new life choices, as well as a growing health-related issue (which is, in actuality, the underlying cause for much of his desire to alter his previously-existing lifestyle, he has been offered a high-profile 20th anniversary rematch with his 1980s arch-nemesis, The Ayatollah (Ernest Miller), which Randy (and his manager) believes just may be his ticket back to stardom. Initially Randy agrees to the rematch, but passes on the rematch when he is advised of his declining health, only to change his mind when he sees the current state of his life.

A Man Facing The Future

No one wants to see their own mortality play out in real time.
No one wants to see their own mortality play out in real time. | Source

A Most Powerful Role

Arguably, this is Rourke’s most powerful role, as he was not only nominated for an Academy Award but both Rourke and the film itself received a boatload of nominations, awards, and critical acclaim; further, it allowed the suits in Hollywood to once again see him as a viable and bankable star (leading to his role as Whiplash in Iron Man 2). The film itself is brutally honest about how we age vs. how we perceive ourselves. Then, it delves into how we choose to deal with that reality as it unfolds before us. It is always difficult to come to grips with our own mortality, our own mistakes, misdeeds, and bad impulses.

A Man and ins Woman

Not everything is as it seems.
Not everything is as it seems. | Source

A Film Worth Seeing

The route that Randy takes to make amends for his past are unfortunately too little too late, and unfortunately he falls far short of what would be required to successfully achieve the absolution he so desperately seeks. Needless to say that still doesn’t stop him from attempting to do so, even though he becomes well aware of how things will ultimately turn out. If you never got to see The Wrestler when it came out, you really do owe it to yourself to seek it out and watch it now, if only to watch a masterful performance, beautifully executed.

The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd.

In isn't all glamour shots and cheers.
In isn't all glamour shots and cheers. | Source

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      Robert J. Sodaro 12 months ago

      While this film certainly put Rourke back into the llimelight, the odds are that Stallone would have cast him in Expendables regardless, as it was Stallone's intention to cast '80s action heroes (of which Rourke was one) into the film. Still, it certainly didn't hurt that this film proved to be such a success.

    • MizPamRoxx profile image

      Pam Freeman 12 months ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      Thanks for the review of The Wrestler. I will have to check it out on DVD. Would this film have also put Mickey Rourke up for his role in The Expendables, whom I thought was a great minor role in the other Male-dominated film? Thx, Pam