JT Film Review

61 – The Wrestler (2008)

The Wrestler REVIEW

5/5 stars

Director – Darren Aronofsky

Cast – Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood


wrestler-poster-final-fullsizeMickey Rourke is a great actor.

Many people never thought we would hear that statement again, after all of Mickey Rourke’s critically panned movies in the late 1980’s, his move to a boxing career, and his bit-part roles afterwards. However he fought his way back and started getting some roles in films like Man On Fire, Domino, and Sin City. Then fate called in the form of Darren Arnofsky, director of The Wrestler, who offered him the lead role of Randy “The Ram” Robinson.

This movie is the most gripping movie I have seen in a while. It is quite low-key, yet builds up a feeling of hopelessness and longing that will not be matched for a while. It is hard to imagine Nicholas Cage in the role (as was originally planned). Mickey Rourke brings an intimate and natural feel to his performance, most likely attributable in part to his brief boxing career.

The camera is handled in a documentary manner; half the movie is shots of Mickey Rourke’s back as he walks into the ring, or down the hallway at the grocery store where he works. This method works wonderfully towards the tone of the movie; when we see the wrestlers slamming themselves around in the ring or staple-gunning each other and themselves (!) we really feel it. Some moments in the movie are seemingly as gruesome as anything in Saw. I literally had to turn my head away a couple times, it is that realistic.

Such scenes could come across as gratuitous, except that everything presented in the ring is based on fact. This movie doesn’t condone or condemn these acts committed in the name of entertainment; it merely shows us what happens, and Randy’s love for it. It does, perhaps, question why he loves it, but such a question is only natural given what we are shown.

the_wrestler_low_1It was mentioned by a reader that The Wrestler has a very generic story line, that of a washed up athlete and a hooker with a heart of gold. I recognize that at its base that story is there, but here the execution and style of the movie raise the story far above its roots. There is a cliche or two, but the movie’s so good you barely notice them, if at all.

The movie is ultimately about underdogs, and what happens to the ones who can’t rise to the top, the ones who just do what they love and damned be the consequences. Mickey Rourke owns this movie, but all the supporting actors are excellent, Marise Tomei in particular. She plays the “hooker with the heart of gold”, but with grace, dignity, and pride. It is an excellent and difficult role, but she pulls it off.


The Wrestler is a tough, grimy, sad movie, much like its title character. Parts are a bit tough to watch, but in context fit the movies story perfectly. All the actors are excellent, but this is really Mickey Rourke’s movie; and a great movie it is too. Highly recommended.



“The Wrestler” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



November 4, 2009 - Posted by | 5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Drama, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , ,

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