Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On DVD: The Wrestler (2008)

Darren Arenofsky's "The Wrestler" is a case study on the life of one wrestler who tried to recapture past glories, despite a heart condition that could take him down for the final three count.

Robin Ramzinski, aka Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke), was a star in the 80's. As this film begins, Robinson is keeping his career going by working weekend independent shows in the Northeast, while working at a deli counter. Estranged from his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood), the Ram soldiers on, even after a post-match heart attack in the locker room and subsequent surgery. In attempting to mend his fractured personal life, he tries to form a romantic bond with Pam, a single mom working nights as a stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei).

It all leads to the finale, a match recalling Robinson's greatest feud of the 80's, with The Ayatollah (former WCW & WWE wrestler Ernest Miller). Just when it looks like Robinson's about to win the match, despite his heart troubles, the screen fades to black, and we're left wondering.

Ring of Honor & Combat Zone Wrestling, two Northeast-based promotions, took part in the production of the movie. There are also some faces familiar to fans of WWE & TNA, such as Ron "The Truth" Killings, now operating under the name R-Truth, and Austin Aries, a recent TNA champion. The production came under fire from certain activist groups, particularly over the portrayal of The Ayatollah, failing to see that it was in fact just a character. A Middle Eastern heel played by an African-American. Couldn't they see that as plain as day?

Rourke & Tomei each earned Oscar nominations for their work. Bruce Springsteen recorded the title song, which made its way up the charts in 2009. Rourke, of course, has since made a couple of other hit films, "Iron Man 2" & "The Expendables", a sure sign that his career, like that of "Iron Man" star Robert Downey, Jr., is back on the upswing. Fox Searchlight's YouTube channel offers the trailer:

What I find amusing is Hulk Hogan, who recently left TNA---so we think---having claimed in an interview with Howard Stern that he was approached for the part. Aronofsky said no way, it was meant for Rourke all along. In the physical condition Hogan was in then and now, he's obviously dreaming.

Rating: A.

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