Pros: Tremendously powerful acting from Mickey Rourke.
Cons: Shows you an embarrassing side of wrestling e.g. drug use.
The Wrestler is a movie about Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson (Mickey Rourke) who was once wrestling’s biggest superstars but now his stardom and his career are fading along with his personal relationship with his daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood) and a stripper Pam who also has a stage name Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), even worse is his fleeting popularity with the fans. The movie is shot in a somewhat documentary style and compliments the directors vision of in your face realism.
I went to see this movie when it first hit my local theater and I must admit that I am a huge wrestling fan. I grew up watching the likes of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and many wrestling greats. I was eagerly anticipating the behind the scenes action and it delivered. Not only does this movie pay homage to the wrestling superstars of today it also reminds us to never forget about the superstars of yesterday, whose names are not currently up in lights. There is considerably enough humor, emotion and complexity in Randy, s personal life to keep a non fan sated but its unbelievable ability to touch a fan is most profound and it succeeds with flying colors.
In my opinion ‘The Rams’ relationship with the fans are much more complex than Randy’s personal relationships. This is best demonstrated as ‘The Ram’ is seen greeting and acknowledging two disabled fan’s just outside the door to ring side. Here are two fans that probably know all that there is to know about ‘The Ram’ but perhaps know very little about Randy. I personally doubt that they would want to know either; you see, wrestling is about making heroes and villains, it shows us the beauty of love, the ugliness of hate and gives us fans a proper outlet to appropriately express it. This movie made me laugh and cry. I laughed the most at scenes of Randy’s day job where at a deli he tries to use humor to get him through the day and again in a later scene where Randy’s stage name ‘The Ram’ suddenly takes on a whole new meaning. I really enjoyed those scenes.
I choked up a few times, in particular the part where Randy is seen playing Nintendo with a little boy who isn’t interested (not really) in hearing stories about The Ram. To me this was sad because back in the early 80’s wrestlers were devoid of proper media marketing such as Internet, Dud’s, Cd’s, etc… not to mention the lack of popularity wrestling had with the mainstream. (Note: The fact that the business held onto the idea that wrestling was absolutely real added to this. It wasn’t until after a superstar ‘open hand slapped a 20/20 news reporter (twice) who asked him if wrestling was fake, that WWE admitted, “Although the story lines are fixed the matches were absolutely real”. That is what launched it into the mainstream.)
Reinforcing this is a later scene in which, you see former superstars at a fan signing resting their heads on tables while another is actually sewing. The young fans don’t care about them anymore, they are left with a disregard that I’m sure was tougher for them to live with than the injuries that they had endured. It hurts me so deeply that people consistently mock and make fun of the die-hard passion between the wrestlers and the fans that I got more emotional while writing this review than I care to admit. I have witnessed more compassion and love from the men and women in this business then I have seen from those in any other popular sport.
As far as WWE superstar appearances, there are plenty, but most important to me was a cameo appearance by WWE newcomer R-Truth. Where he asks Randy “So how you been man?” Randy answers “Hangin and swangin’ my brotha.” that is priceless topped off with R-Truth saying” I’m buyin.’” is something only a fan can truly appreciate and it brings a smile to my face every time. It upsets me to know the sacrifice and undying commitment these superstars give to the fans night after night and for some (superstars and fans alike) that is the only family they have left. This movie will
pick you up and slam you down, again and again.
At the heart of this emotional roller coaster is a ‘Rocky’ like tribute. While Randy is talking on a pay phone we hear him say “I don’t give an s— I just want to wrestle.” This is a really good movie for Fans and Non fans alike and although as a fan I wanted to stand up and cheer I couldn’t because I was too floored to move. I walked away with a feeling that although the sport might be staged, maybe just once because of this movie, everyone can appreciate just what wrestling entertainment is really all about.