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Wick's Review

Created Feb 03, 2009 08:08PM PST • Edited Mar 12, 2021 06:13PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Really Great 4.5

    An elemental movie that spills the beans about a spectacularly dishonest “sport,” The Wrestler makes few false moves, provides a showcase for Mickey Rourke’s instantly legendary performance, and proves to be an involving, affecting and punch-funny movie.

  3. Really Great 4.5

    Mickey Rourke’s performance harks back to early Stallone in the steroidal muscularity required for the role, as much physical and biological as theatrical. Coupling this ├╝ber manliness with a low-key sensitivity and the ability to shed a tear (an essential skill of great movie actors), he creates the inimitable performance for which he’s receiving deserved hosannas. Coming 27 years after he burst on the scene with his other inimitable turn1, The Wrestler makes him a bona fide Hollywood legend.

    Rourke’s character famously declares himself “an old broken down piece of meat,” so it’s fitting that his love interest would herself be a piece of meat trying to stave off the oblivion of age. Thus Marisa Tomei puts her body on the line as much as her celebrated leading man. Yes, her stripper-with-a-heart-of-gold takes it all off – almost, managing to keep her dignity intact in the process.

    Coming a year after her solid turn in Before the Devil Knows Your Dead, Tomei has solidified her position as a serious actress, no longer needing to be funny or glamorous to jump off the screen. That said, she looks pretty damn hot in The Wrestler.

    Amongst the rest of the cast, Evan Rachel Wood never does much for me, and does nothing here to change that assessment. Though in a bit part, Mark Margolis spices up the production per usual, as he’s also currently doing in Defiance.

    The three dozen professional wrestlers are perfect, including such worthies as Paul E. Normous, LA Smooth, Nate Hatred and Nicky Benz.

    1 In Body Heat, Rourke’s arson “consultant” memorably says to Ted Danson’s pussy-whipped sap

    I got a serious question for you: What the fuck are you doing? This is not shit for you to be messin’ with. Are you ready to hear something? I want you to see if this sounds familiar: any time you try a decent crime, you got fifty ways you’re gonna fuck up. If you think of twenty-five of them, then you’re a genius… and you ain’t no genius.

    Rourke’s sotto voce delivery instantly marked him as an actor of uncommon intrigue.

  4. Male Stars Perfect 5.0
  5. Female Stars Great 4.0
  6. Female Costars Good 3.0
  7. Male Costars Perfect 5.0
  8. Really Great 4.5

    Pro wrestling features elemental characters playacting juvenile fantasies. So it is with the characters in this movie. Like mischievous boys who run away to join the circus, they do what they must so they can keep on keeping on: juicing to maintain their pneumatic muscles, cutting themselves to inspire the crowd’s blood lust, and availing themselves of the groupie perks that accompany their glimmering stardom. For muscle-bound Peter Pans, it’s a hell of a ride. The film’s greatness is that we the viewers get to ride along, witnessing the toll taken for such an existence.

    Hell, even the movie’s title is elemental: The Thinker as The Wrestler.

    Within this straitjacketed structure, Darren Aronofsky has crafted a great albeit limited movie from Robert Siegel’s knowing script. It’s like a throwback movie done with a decidedly seedy post-modern realism.

  9. Direction Really Great 4.5

    I remember seeing the trailers for Pi when it came out and thinking that this must be one hell of an audacious filmmaker. But I never got around to seeing it or any of Arnofsky’s half dozen other movies, till this one. The guy’s good. Damn good.

    For instance, his echoing of the ring entrance when the Ram goes through the tunnel to his job at the meat counter was clever, albeit a bit heavy handed.

  10. Play Great 4.0

    Former comedy writer Robert Siegel (he was editor-in-chief of The Onion) shows obvious range in his original screenplay here.

    However, the celebrated “emo” scene between Ram and his daughter struck me as contrived, though perhaps it was ruined because all the hype around Rourke’s performance has made it a staple of every interview and award show.

    OTOH, the lighthearted deli counter scene where the Ram cajoles and jives with his customers was truly funny and felt like the real New Jersey.

    Another highlight was discovering the Ram’s real name. True story: killing time waiting to be let into the theater, I mused out loud “Why is his nickname Ram when there’s no M in his name?” It was cool to see that this riddle was intentionally placed by Siegel, and answered in the movie.

  11. Music Perfect 5.0

    Bruce’s title song hits slow and hard right in the solar plexus.

  12. Visuals Really Great 4.5
  13. Content
  14. Risqué 1.9

    Topless dancing, real simulated violence, and random debauchery make this a grownup movie indeed.

  15. Sex Titillating 2.1
  16. Violence Fierce 1.6
  17. Rudeness Salty 2.0
  18. Glib 1.2

    How did fiftysomething Mickey Rourke pump himself up and cut himself down, six pack and all? Perhaps he was sampling some of the Ram’s juice.

    Beautiful Marissa Tomei, OTOH, looks to be all natural. Ummm, um.

    As for professional wrestling, you gotta love Wikipedia’s benign conundrum of a definition: “a non-competitive professional sport.”

  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.2
  20. Biological Glib 1.5
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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Dec 30, 2009 9:50PM

Regarding BrianSez’s Review
Wow Brian, a rare Perfect from you. Serious.

Feb 3, 2009 8:20PM

Regarding Wick’s Review
OK AMC, third time was a charm for me. Based on my review, its obvious I loved the movie. It turned out to be much more than just a showcase for Rourke’s performance, which was my fear before reading your review.

Jan 27, 2009 8:35PM

Great review AMC. I’ve tried to see The Wrestler twice now, and both times it was sold out. So I saw Revolutionary Road the first time, which was good enough, but not something I would have otherwise seen. Then I saw Waltz with Bashir the second time. At least that was a movie I needed to see.

Anyway, I still gotta see The Wrestler, now more than ever after reading your review.