Total knock out

By Gus Bode

Wes Lawson

Daily Egyptian

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‘The Wrestler’

Rated R

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Run time: 109 minutes

Grade: A

When confronted with a movie as good as ‘The Wrestler,’ it’s hard to come up with a review that isn’t just a gushing stream of consciousness. It’s rare that a movie is so well made, that a character is so fully realized, and that the experience of watching it is joyous, heartbreaking, and uplifting.


‘The Wrestler’ is certainly one of the best films of the year, and the fact that it is just now coming to Carbondale is a sin. It’s gotten justly deserved Oscar nominations, and it deserved more. This is the kind of film that will live on long after the awards ceremonies are over.

Mickey Rourke plays Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson. It’s impossible to think that a better male performance was delivered last year than Rourke’s. Randy used to be a famous wrestler in the 80s but 20 years have passed, and he’s still in the ring. His daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood) wants nothing to do with him, and he spends his days working at a grocery store and his nights wrestling at community centers, gymnasiums, and VFW’s. One night, Randy collapses from a massive heart attack. The doctors tell him that he shouldn’t wrestle anymore, and Randy tries to cope with that. He starts up a tentative relationship with a stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) and attempts to reconnect with his daughter, although the call of the ring and a long awaited rematch with a formal rival loom on the horizon.

The film is both a compelling character study and a portrait of a sect of our culture that not too many people are aware of. The most fascinating scenes are the ones where we see the preparations wrestlers go through before matches. It’s all staged, of course, but these people take their jobs incredibly seriously, and most of the hits are real. One cringe inducing montage shows both the aftermath of a no holds barred brawl involving barbed wire and staple guns, mixed in with the footage of the actual fight. It’s compelling stuff, and director Darren Aronofsky shoots it like a fly on the wall, giving us a backstage pass into this world.

But the real story is that of Randy’s redemption through his craft, and how his life is somewhat meaningless without it. He tries to connect, and he tries to lead a normal life, but he has a nasty habit of screwing things up. He has an incredibly intimate day with his daughter, but in the back of our minds we know it can’t last. He tries to connect with Cassidy, but she’s a mother and a stripper who is also past her prime. Rourke certainly does a brilliant job, but credit should go to Tomei as well. This is a role that a lot of actresses wouldn’t touch, since it has emotional vulnerability and copious nudity, but she pulls it off brilliantly. Hopefully she’ll take home the gold on Oscar night, along with Rourke, who richly deserves it.

Randy is not a man searching for pity, but a man who simply wants to keep doing what he does best, since he can’t do much beyond that. He tries to make rent, to make his relationships work, to give his life meaning, but ultimately, wrestling is the one thing in his life that is constant. The final scene of the film is both heartbreaking and insanely triumphant, as Randy stands tall on the top of the ring and cries. ‘The Wrestler’ is an extraordinary film, one that deserves to be seen, cherished, and celebrated. Mickey Rourke, your redemption has come.

Wes Lawson can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 275