'The Wrestler': Low Blows, But No Punches Pulled

Mickey Rourke as Randy 'The Ram' Robinson i

Tag: Mickey Rourke was reluctant to enter the ring as retired wrestler Randy 'The Ram' Robinson because the role closely resembled his own struggles. Niko Tavernise/Fox Searchlight hide caption

itoggle caption Niko Tavernise/Fox Searchlight
Mickey Rourke as Randy 'The Ram' Robinson

Tag: Mickey Rourke was reluctant to enter the ring as retired wrestler Randy 'The Ram' Robinson because the role closely resembled his own struggles.

Niko Tavernise/Fox Searchlight

The Wrestler

  • Director: Darren Aronofsky
  • Genre: Drama
  • Running Time: 109 minutes

Rated R for violence, sexuality/nudity, language and some drug use.

As the end of the year approaches, the Oscar chatter gets louder — and no actor has stirred up more buzz than Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler.

Turns out it's worth it — sort of.

Yes, Rourke's work as Randy "The Ram" Robinson — a once-great pro-wrestling name who's fallen on hard times — is the heart of The Wrestler. As the blues lyric says, if Robinson didn't have bad luck, he wouldn't have any kind of luck at all. You can hear the pain as the man tries to explain himself to his estranged daughter.

Rourke himself has had very public bouts with career disintegration, and he falls naturally into this character. He brings just the right amount of faded charisma to a role he hesitated to take on because it was a little too close to his life.

The Wrestler also does a good job re-creating the down-at-the-heels ambience of the lower rungs of professional wrestling. It's a subculture that was into performance art well before the high-culture world heard about it.

The Wrestler does have its problems, however, and they begin with Robinson's bouts, depicted so graphically that they make a fetish out of audience discomfort. When your screenplay includes a wrestler who uses a staple gun on his opponents, it's not realism — it's making us squirm for squirming's sake.

That weakness for bludgeoning the audience into correct emotional thinking is a flaw that plays out throughout the film — as when, for instance, Robinson gets a job behind a deli counter, and he responds to an irritating customer in the bloodiest, most excessive way imaginable.

Rourke has turned in a memorable performance, but it is real work in an essentially fake film.

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