February 8, 2009 by Zack
Do you ever wonder about what goes on in the lives of professional wrestlers? Ever pondered what it was like behind closed doors for guys like Hulk Hogan, The Rock, or Stone Cold Steve Austin?
Me neither, but this movie made me care just a little bit more. Now that may not be saying much, but for what it’s worth, this is a film that at least deserves a viewing, and perhaps illustrates a profession that isn’t as useless as some of us may think. Then again, maybe not. I guess I’m feeling rather dubious today.
“The Wrestler”, in some ways, reminded me of “Raging Bull”. The opening sequence shows the glory days of Randy “The Ram” Robinson, and then the film opens up with the usual “20 Years Later”, and he’s a broken down man who works at a food mart and still does weekend shows for some extra scratch, just trying to make ends meet, and recapture old glory.
There is nothing we haven’t seen here before with the dark side of an athlete’s life–although I did enjoy some of the credit given to these guys who are trying to make a living, and aren’t the big celebrities such as “The Rock”. They have pretty lame names, and they do actually beat the living daylights out of each other at times. There’s a pretty bloody and gritty match that “The Ram” gets involved with, which leads to his ultimate “life-changing” decision to retire, and that’s when he suffers a heart attack.
At first he doesn’t want to retire, but after trying to reconnect with his daughter thanks to the advice of his regular stripper-friend (played quite well by Marissa Tomei, and quite…nude), he decides to settle down a bit. But as it turns out, his daughter hates him and the one chance he has to redeem himself by taking her out to dinner, he blows it on cheap sex with a slut with a Fireman fetish (probably the funniest sequence in the whole film).
And of course, that’s what this movie is about. It’s all about being too late to change things, and faded dreams that never will be reached again. It’s a fairly predictable film but it’s saved by its quirky approach and the absolutely powerful and commanding performance by Mickey Rourke. He steals the show completely–and he just knows how to make you feel his pain just with a crack of his lips and the croak of his broken voice.
Despite that this is quite a depressing film, there are some funny bits in it. There’s a great scene in a deli that he’s picked up hours for, in which he sort of relives some “charisma” and shows how he “plays to an audience” while slicing up deli meats and sealing up penne pasta and egg salad. There’s also an amusing scene of him playing Nintendo with a kid who makes no bones that playing this wrestling game is “an old game”.
An old game can sum up this movie’s plot and the character development as well, but it’s unfair to put down a film that’s at least earnest and deeply involved with its protagonist, even if what he does for a living can be a cheap and shoddy profession. It’s still something you can actually admire, if you think about it.