Retro Review: The Wrestler

Regular readers of my blog will recall that I seldom get out to see movies when they are brand new and in theaters. It's not that I have little or no social life (well, perhaps that too), but I am appalled at movie prices, particularly the cost of Milk Duds. Typically, I wait for the flick to hit DVD or HBO. Such is the case of my latest Retro Review of Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler.

Right away I was drawn into the simplicity of the story. Mickey Rourke plays Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a superstar wrestler from the 80s. The story begins 20 years later, in the present day, where The Ram is no longer the headliner he once was, but continues to work local and independent wrestling shows. The Wrestler portrays these indy shows with great accuracy. From my own wrestling experience, I felt right at home in the story line. A bunch of no-name wrestlers, all changing in the same room (usually a conference or storage room, depending on the venue), going over who is wrestling who and when. Occasionally, we would have big names join us at our shows as well. All that is to say that The Wrestler gets an A for authenticity from beginning to end.

After a "hardcore" match, complete with barbed wire and staple guns, The Ram suffers a heart attack from years of living hard and shooting steroids and abusing pain meds. He collapses and and later wakes up in the hospital having had major bypass surgery. The doctor informs The Ram that he can never wrestle again. He soon realizes that the doctor is right and informs his promoter that he will be unable to compete in a match commemorating the 20th anniversary of the greatest match of his career vs. The Ayatollah.

The remainder of the movie follows The Ram trying to adjust to life outside the squared circle. He is forced to take a job in a grocery store deli while he attempts to reconcile with the daughter he abandoned for his wrestling career. The Ram is also vying for the affections of Pam, a stripper, portrayed by Marisa Tomei. Like The Ram, Pam is realizing that she is getting too old for her chosen profession as well. The two find themselves drawn to each other and try to start a romantic relationship. The highlight of the relationship between Rourke and Tomei is a scene in a bar where the two lament that the 80s was the greatest decade and was ruined by the 90s. This was a good moment for us forty-somethings. Outside of that scene, the interaction of the two characters was very dry.

After The Ram forgets a date he had made with his daughter, he realizes that the only thing he will ever be good at is wrestling, so he quits his deli job with extreme prejudice and announces his return to the ring. During his match with the Ayatollah, he grabs his chest and painfully tries to continue the match. The film ends with The Ram leaping from the top rope, leaving us to wonder if he survived the match or not.

All in all, I liked The Wrestler, but I didn't LOVE it. Mickey Rourke gave a superb performance. The film was very authentic and the scenes of Marisa Tomei as a stripper certainly didn't hurt the viewing. If you are a fan of professional wrestling, a budding wrestler, a has-been wrestler, or a never-was like me, you will enjoy The Wrestler. If you're looking for a good wholesome family movie, look elsewhere.


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