Sunday, January 4, 2009


THE WRESTLER is every bit as good as the critics are all saying it is. Darren Arnofsky has finally done it and placed his mark on the great cinema wall that will be around for generations to come. He can now relax on all of his human condition dramas and attempt to outdo Verhoeven's ROBOCOP with the remake which should drop next year.

Better yet, I am just going to come out and say it: Arnofsky is a jerk. I don't like him, or the stories he tells. REQUIEM FOR A DREAM is one of the few movies I have actually turned off while attempting to mainline it. There was something about having one of those Wayans bros in it that just ruined the experience. Well, the Wayans brother and the mean-spirited script that had been sharpened to cut through the joints of your armor and leave you bleeding for a few days.

But then came the noise. It started about 6 months ago, and it has been a steady distant thunder of applause for this Arnofsky ass and Mickey Rourke. They said it was Rourke's best work ever. They said it was a masterpiece. They were even talking about a best actor award for Rourke in this next round of Academy commercialism. I was intrigued.

Rourke has been in my sights for YEARS now. I have been paying close attention to his work. I have always been impressed how this ex-boxer manages to chain-smoke his way through life and look like a god. You think that the 57 year old physique that he demonstrates in THE WRESTLER is something new? I am not going to cite SIN CITY, but everyone knows how good he was in that one. What you really need to watch DOUBLE TIME starring Dennis Rodman. That is over 10 years ago, and Rourke is a BEAST in that film. Perhaps, if Rodman's acting chops aren't up to your standards, you should see Rourke up against Stallone in the 2000 version of GET CARTER. Rourke towers over Stallone, and could have kicked Stallone's ass IRL even if the script said otherwise. And for the record, over 10 years ago I rented RUMBLEFISH, FALL TIME, and BULLET just to see Rourke in action. He is in crappy movies, but he sure does exude a manly level of charisma that seems almost sincere. It is even worth watching THE RAINMAKER to see him do his chainsmoke for about 10 minutes. MAN ON FIRE is made better because of Rourke. He has brought a seasoning to the films that he is in that completely trumps most of the macho posturing you see these days from leading men. Mickey Rourke is on the same playing field as Robert Mitchum. If you don't know what I am talking about, then you have no idea what a Hollywood badboy is all about.

Ok, intro aside, THE WRESTLER is Mickey Rourke's movie. The camera is all over him, and he doesn't shy away from it one bit. Rourke is Robin Raminski who was a major wrestling player 20 years ago under the name RANDY THE RAM. Randy is what he says he is: "a broken down piece of meat." His theme is METAL HEALTH by QUIET RIOT, and it really fits. Initially, we get to see a wrestling match setup and finish. We get to see behind the curtain and it is mildly amusing. The next set that we are exposed to is the extreme wrestling made popular by Mick Foley, the Insane Clown Posse and others. Glass, barbed wire, more barbed wire and staples. I must say that this scene is particularly well done. Just when you think that you are going to be off the hook and not have to deal with the cruelty of it all, you are yanked into it, and it is wincingly brutal.

I am going to steer from spoilers here and keep it light. Randy is trying to put his life back together. He is trying to find purpose. He is done jacking steroids into his ass cheeks and he is trying to live. His community loves him, but they aren't in his personal sphere. Randy is so alone, that he relies on this grade school kid named Adam who lives in his trailer park for social/video game interactions.

He has a woman who interests him, but she is a stripper and a broken down piece of meat in her own way. These two have been so hurt and shunted and reduced to their painful patterns that they don't know how to connect properly. It is heartbreaking.

Randy has a daughter whom he deserted that he is trying to connect with. He struggles like a child presented with a new pet. He has absolutely no idea what to do with this full-grown woman who is his own offspring.

The beauty of THE WRESTLER is that Rourke is human through and through. He is bruised, and he is raw. He is willing to take all sorts of pain to make a point, even if it costs him his day job.

Earlier in here, I pitted Rourke against Stallone. I stand by this completely. Rourke is more of a man and actor that Stallone ever was. Furthermore, THE WRESTLER is everything that ROCKY was not. ROCKY was cornball. For example, the ROCKY soundtrack is a soundtrack made specifically for the movie. THE WRESTLER is built to a soundtrack of real music that was on real charts listened by people who really live the lives that are being presented. The music that permeates this film captures the moment. From 80s cheese metal to modern cheese rap, it all fits. Apparently SLASH did some guitar work on the soundtrack, but I am going to have to give it another listen..Slash hasn't had a decent hook in years, much like Randy the Ram. ROCKY is polished Hollywood cinema. THE WRESTLER is dirty and real. ROCKY has Stallone as a dim steroetype that you are forced to love. The love you feel for Stallone is cheap, manipulated and sterile. THE WRESTLER has Rourke as a struggling everyman, who earns your love with a lovel of heart and honestly that ROCKY simply glossed over. ROCKY was poilished. THE WRESTLER is pitted concrete, and something that you have to learn to appreciate. THE WRESTLER is real. It is a human story about human failures and triumphs.

This movie is every bit as good as all of the hype it is getting and it will make you consider all of those ugly choices you make as you wheedle your way through whatever life you live.