Friday, March 6, 2009

The Wrestler (Rhoades)

“The Wrestler” Goes for the Count

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

When I was a teenager I used hang around an old warehouse where a local wrestling federation maintained a ring, watching those muscle-bound athletes practice their moves. Each throw or pin carefully choreographed. The outcome of every bout decided in advance.
They showed me how they stomped the floor with each blow to make it sound more dramatic. How they chomped down on chicken bladders to cause blood to trickle from their mouths. How they spit out kernels of corn, pretending these were teeth.
Show biz, they explained.

You get a similar behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of this “sports entertainment” (as WWE’s Vince McMahon once termed it) in “The Wrestler” – the Academy Award-nominated film that’s now playing at the Tropic Cinema.

Mickey Rourke is perfectly cast as Randy “The Ram” Robinson, an aging professional wrestler who’s now reduced to “an old broken-down piece of meat.” Estranged from his daughter, unable to pay his rent, and hooked on painkillers, he had little going on in his life except for his self-esteem as a once-popular pro wrestler.

His grueling bouts, physically challenging even when reduced to practiced moves, have taken their toll. The old ticker isn’t up to the abuse. Retirement is facing him, a bleak future of working in a supermarket deli rather than entertaining his ragtag fans in seedy high school gyms and community centers.

Marisa Tomei is on hand, nominated for a second Oscar for her portrayal of a commitment-phobic stripper. You get a good view of her epidermis as well as her thespian abilities.
Rourke is in great shape as the muscled-up protagonist, biceps bulging, abs only slightly soft.
His long blonde hair reminiscent of a Gorgeous George or Ric Flair.

The success of this film is tied to Rourke, somewhat in the same way that the success of “Iron Man” can be attributed to casting Robert Downey Jr. as a substance-abusing superhero. Art imitating life.

We’ve followed Rourke’s career from quirky supporting roles (“Body Heat”) to dramatic leads (“The Pope of Greenwich Village”) to soft porn (“Nine 1/2 Weeks”) to a turbulent marriage to model/actress Carré Otis (whom he may have “accidentally” shot) to an abortive boxing career and bad plastic surgery. Now his return to public attention in “The Wrestler” parallels the fictional career of Randy “The Ram” Robinson.

We rooted for Rourke at the Academy Awards, knowing he was a lost cause. But damn, what a magnificent lost cause.

Maybe he didn’t walk away with a golden statuette, but when Best Actor winner Sean Penn acknowledged Rourke as “my brother” we all had a sense of pride for his Phoenix-like rise from the ashes.

Maybe Mickey Rourke didn’t win an Oscar, but he bought a dog after the ceremony and named him Oscar. Gotta love this train wreck of a man.

And his comeback movie.
[from Solares Hill]

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