FROM the moment that you see the back of Mickey Rourke’s head to the final cut to black, The Wrestler is a gripping drama. When doing a film such as this it is easy to fall into a trap of clichés as emotion gets the better of directors, writers and producers alike.
But Darren Aronfsky does a wonderful job of taking the down on his luck lonely, tragic quasi-sports star narrative and making it mean more than just a tragedy. He expertly steers around the clichés and avoids any temptations of turning this into a pastiche to the Rocky films.
In a flawless performance Mickey Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson – a deeply flawed ageing wrestler holding onto his former glories, from sticking a hypodermic needle in his rear end to snorting cocaine in a dirty toilet, Rourke to use a wrestling term “brings it”, warts and all.
The most heart wrenching scene of this tragedy isn’t the finale, or the breakdown of Randy “The Ram” at the meat counter, but Rourke’s exchange with one of the kids who plays the Nintendo with. Call of Duty 4 being the significant cold brutal reality to Randy’s fantasy world of yesteryear.
Rourke takes a battering, but it’s not the physical battering that’ll make your eyes water but the emotional trauma that he takes. Supporting Rourke is Marisa Tomei who does a wonderful job of not only complimenting Rourke but also the plot surrounding our tragic hero.
Bleak cinematography, a sparse score (provided by Clint Mansell) and a grim storyline have all become a hallmark of Aronofsky, think Requiem for a Dream. The Wrestler is no different.
Dealing with topical issues surrounding the wrestling business such as drug abuse, exploitation and physical health problems on one level this film real shows the dark underbelly to the glitzy glamorous carnival seen on TV. But there is an emotional level that connects with all audience members’ even non-wrestling/sports fans.