The Wrestler (R) ★★★☆

scene from The Wrestlerscene from The WrestlerMickey Rourke

The Real Mickey Rourke

Pro wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was at the top of the heap 20 years earlier; a headliner, a show stopper, a money-maker in the ‘not so kind’ to aging wrestlers  world. Fast forward to today and he’s a broken-down soul, both physically and emotionally who can barely pay the rent of his shabby trailer. It’s a known fact that Mickey Rourke has had his share of bad luck and down and out days of a ‘has been’ Hollywood actor. The role parallels Rourke’s personal and public real life struggles and it ain’t pretty to watch.

For all those remotely familiar with the sport of Pro Wrestling, this film will enlighten you in many ways and you will view the sport with a new outlook. I thought boxing was brutal; let’s just say I’ve changed my mind as the stunts although clearly planned and somewhat fake, do have dire everlasting results for the wrestlers. Rourke did most of his own wrestling scenes in the film which simply add to the authenticity he brings to the role. At times, it’s hard to know where Randy the Ram starts and Mickey Rourke the actor ends, both are so intertwined in this mesmerizing performance.

Marsia Tomei, Academy Award winner for “My Cousin Vinny” (1992) plays Cassidy, Randy’s love interest and stripper friend. In her seedy work world, she performs to woo patrons for money just as Randy tries to woo fans in the ring. It’s an interesting relationship as the two have more in common than the resistant Cassidy would care to admit. Quite a risky role for Tomei as her work attire doesn’t leave much to the imagination. It’s not your typical role, but neither is Rourke’s. Both have landed Academy Award nominations so I would highly doubt either has regrets.

From the beginning of the film, we are shown the underside of Pro Wrestling, as well as the theatrical side; which is maintaining a created character. In The Ram’s case, it’s his long bleached blonde hair, buff upper tan body and his full body slam off the top of the ring ropes.  We view Rourke’s constant ritual of bleaching his own hair, spray tanning himself and using steroids to maintain his body-builder physique.  It’s all just in a day’s work, or in this case; all in the up keep of a cartoonish character. It’s a high price to pay as the muscles are maintained by the use of illegal anabolic steroids and the pain is kept in check by the use of other illegally prescribed drugs.

Randy does have an estranged daughter and at the suggestion of Cassidy, he attempts to repair the damaged relationship. These scenes are also heart wrenching, as Rourke gives a performance from his soul as he pleads with his daughter for forgiveness and non hatred. Emotionally raw, they show ‘The Ram’s’ vulnerable side not to mention Rourke’s acting skill.

The wrestling scenes are brutal to watch as these are the low-rent bouts that aren’t typically shown on pay per view TV. The Ram encounters broken glass, razor blades, barbed wire and a staple gun all in an evening’s work. The hired paramedics who attend to the wrestlers after the match are simply part of the scenery in this bloody insane world.

The reality of Professional Wrestling is that it can most definitely have the same damaging effects that are common in the boxing circuit. An unfortunate example is the iconic boxer Muhammad Ali who has suffered brain damage due to his overextended career in boxing. If anything, let’s hope that lessons from “The Wrestler,” can be passed on to our youth who might be considering it as a ‘really cool’ career choice. It’s basically a dead end in more ways than one. Please stick to the telemarketing arena; at least you won’t need to keep up appearances and its less wear and tear on the body.

Sarah Adamson © 2009