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The Wrestler


Film Reviews from 2008
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from 2006

The Wrestler

the WrestlerIn the early 1980’s, Mickey Rourke was a promising young actor who seemed to have all the makings of a big star.  However, for many years he wrestled with his own demons and all but vanished from the screen.  Now he has re-emerged in a big way, earning critical acclaim, including a Golden Globe award and Oscar nomination, as Randy “The Ram” Robinson, an over-the-hill wrestler making a comeback in “The Wrestler.”  This is a case in which it’s difficult to separate the film from Rourke’s own personal story.  Where does one leave off and the other begin?

Rourke certainly gives a courageous physical performance.  His 50+ year old body is thrown around the ring, attacked with a staple gun, barbed wire, and folding chairs, among other props. This is not the polished world of big time glitzy professional wrestling that garners big TV ratings and sells out arenas across the country with its larger than life heroes and villains.  Randy “The Ram” wrestles in small arenas in the Northeast in front of small, loyal crowds.  There’s nothing pretty about this wrestling world. Yet it’s here that Randy finds his only success in life, and ultimately, his redemption. 

Randy has made a mess of his life.  He lives alone in a trailer in New Jersey, and drives (and sometimes sleeps in) an old beat-up van. He works part time at a supermarket deli. When he suffers a heart attack after a match, Randy decides to reconcile with his grown daughter (Evan Rachel Wood).  After a promising start, Randy sabotages this relationship, as he has obviously done many times before.

Randy’s only other significant relationship is a friendship with a dancer in a strip club, played by Marisa Tomei in a fine Oscar-nominated performance. 

As much as I wanted to like The Wrestler, it’s pretty tough going.  It is gritty and very raw, with a lot of nudity, drugs, profanity, and, of course, the extreme wrestling violence.  Be forewarned. 

For a movie this sordid to succeed, it needs to be extremely well directed, written, and acted.  You have to have a reason to stick with it.  For me, the saga of Randy “The Ram” just did not do it.  Certainly I had some empathy for this man who continues to put his worn out body through these rigors, even if they kill him.  It’s the only place he’s found any success in life.  But there’s nothing really new in “The Wrestler” to overcome all the obstacles.  I didn’t find the writing, direction, or production noteworthy.  So the only reason to see it is for the performances of Rourke and Tomei. 

I hope the recognition Rourke received for his performance helps to revitalize his career.  Just don’t make me sit through this movie again.

Tom Condon, OP

"I hope the recognition Rourke received
for his performance helps to revitalize his career.  Just don’t make me sit through this movie again."



The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.