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The Wrestler (2009)

Love. Pain. Glory.

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 115 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Watching The Wrestler almost feels like watching an adaptation of a short story, not because the story is small in any way, but because this entire film is so tightly focused on its subject that you come out the other end feeling as if you’ve been walking around with Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson for a few weeks of his life. For a film that resides in the world of professional wrestling, which is a loud and spectacle-filled place to be, The Wrestler is as intimate a portrait of one man as you can get.

Far from his glory days in the 80s when he enjoyed Hulk Hogan-like celebrity as a pro wrestler, Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson’s (Mickey Rourke) has lost some of his luster, but he’s still wrestling on a small scale, and though he’s clearly wearing the scars of his age, he can still put on a good show. Life and health begin to take their toll on Randy, however, and he is forced to retire from his life of showmanship and start to connect with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and exotic dancer Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), a stripper whose journey somewhat mirrors his own. Finally on his way to normalcy, Randy is called on to relive his former glory for one night only, but trying to recapture a decades old dream may cost him everything.

First off, yes, Mickey Rourke deserves all the hoopla he’s getting for this performance, and even though it’s everyone’s favorite headline to say how much Randy mirrors Mickey, or vice versa, I think that’s a little too simple. Rourke does embody his character fully, and we feel his aches and pains like they were our elbows and knees, but that’s the sign of a great actor, which he proves here that he is. Aronofsky that brings it all together, creating a film that almost feels like a documentary but that comes in much closer than any documentary I’ve seen. He follows Randy—literally, right behind him—so closely that it’s almost like a first-person shot, lending even more of a feeling of intimacy with the big guy. Also of note—I’ve heard that even professional wrestlers like the movie, a true sign that the film’s depiction of a sport that, even though dismissed as “fake” is still physically grueling to its participants. It’s movies like The Wrestler that make me glad there’s still an awards system around, because no matter how flawed its judging criteria, at least it helps a small film like this masterpiece get the press it deserves.

It's Got: All the awesome performances you’ve heard about, a staple gun, and a perfect Springsteen song.

It Needs: Aronofsky to have gotten a director’s nom for the Oscars.


A close-up dive into one section of one man’s life that shows just what’s possible, movie-wise, when the right actor and the right director are in it for the love of the film.