Friday, 23 January 2009


Mickey Rourke has lived an interesting life – former boxer, dysfunctional actor and plastic surgery that would make Jackie Stallone weep in the morning and Sloth from The Goonies quite proud.

It is not surprising then that an actor who has spent around 20 years hiding from big roles choosing character-based drama ‘The Wrestler’ as his comeback project.

Set in present day New Jersey, Rourke plays Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson – a former professional Wrestler who has fallen into the grimy, low-paid weekend wrestling circuit. Can you see the comparison? Double Team anyone?

To make matters worse, a sudden heart attack threatens his chances of a comeback career fighting his most notable opponent to date The Ayatollah – whose previous match in the 80s sold out Madison Square Garden.

So, what does every wrestler do with a bit of spare time on their hands? Well Ram decides to build bridges with his teenage daughter Stephanie (played by Thirteen’s Evan Rachel Wood) and woo sexy stripper, Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) while he figures out if the fight is really worth it.

Directed by Requiem of a Dream’s Darren Aronofsky, it becomes evident pretty clear that this film is not going to be for the faint-hearted. Instead, it is a dark, deep look at the world behind the wrestler – not too dissimilar from the 1999 documentary Beyond the Mat – with Aronofsky capturing the authenticity by following Rourke with a hand-held camera.

There is no doubt that Rourke has created an unbelievable character with the help of Robert D. Siegel’s fine script. Rourke plays a character while tough and controlled on the outside, is a lost and sensitive soul drawn back to the love and acceptance he receives from the crowd compared to that in his real life.

But Rourke (nominated for Best Actor at this year’s Oscars) is far from the film’s main talking point. Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny, In the Bedroom) is more than worthy of her Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress as a tough-talking stripper afraid to get too close to anyone, especially Ram.

Fans of wrestling will probably hate it – the fights are brutal but limited - but for those willing to open their heart to The Wrestler will not be disappointed. It is a gritty tale guaranteed to rope you in.

Rating: * * * *

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