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 ).
The mystery of Mickey Rourke's career comes to a grungy apotheosis in The Wrestler
the much-battered actor's triumphant return to the top rope. He plays Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a heavily scarred and medicated battler who's twenty years past his best moment in the ring. But he still schleps to every second-rate fight card he can get to, stringing out the paychecks (more likely a fistful of cash) and nursing what's left of his pride. His attempts to adjust to a more normal kind of life form the most absorbing sections in the movie, whether it's flirting with a stripper (Marisa Tomei is in good form, in every sense), establishing a bond with his understandably angry daughter (Evan Rachel Wood), or working behind the deli counter at a nondescript megastore. Rourke is commanding in the role; he obviously spent hours in the gym and the tanning salon, and his ease with the semi-documentary style adopted by director Darren Aronofsky allows him to naturalistically interact with the colorful real-life wrestlers who crowd the movie's ultra-believable locations. All of which helps distract from the film's overall adherence to ancient formula. You might find yourself waiting for the scene where the risk-taking Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream
) pulls the switch and reveals his true motives for pursuing this otherwise sentimental story, but there's no switch. The Wrestler
is an old-fashioned hoke machine, given grit by an actor who doesn't seem to be so much performing the role of ravaged survivor as embodying it. --Robert Horton
Stills from The Wrestler (Click for larger image)