Friday, 21 February 2014

The Wrestler (2009)

As a professional wrestling fan, I was always going to go see this film, even if the reviews hadn't been good.

An aside: yes, I know pro-wrestling is 'fake' in the sense that the results are pre-determined. The events of every movie I've reviewed in this blog were pre-determined. There are plenty of valid criticisms to be made of professional wrestling (the attitudes towards women and non-white ethnicities, for instance) but having scripted results is not one of them.

Right, that done, let's talk about the movie. The Wrestler picked up great reviews, both from film critics (for the script and Mickey Rourke's performance), and from people within the professional wrestling industry. The latter group praised the film's authenticity. Unsurprisingly, this made me even more keen to see the film. I saw it at the cinema, found it very well done (if not exactly fun) and picked up the DVD. Which I then never watched, because this is not the world's happiest movie, and you need to be in the right frame of mind to see it.

Randy "The Ram" Robinson was a massive wrestling star in the late 1980s, but twenty years later he's working a menial job, living in a trailer (when he can make rent), and wrestling in small local federations. A heart attack after a particularly brutal match (and all the insane things they do in the movie are things that people in these 'hardcore' feds really do inflict on each other), leads him to reconsider his life. He hangs up his boots, tries to strike up a new romantic relationship, attempts to reconnect with his daughter, and to get his life in order. But the lure of the ring is strong, and Randy wouldn't be living in a trailer if he was the kind of guy who made good decisions, so his success or otherwise is very much in doubt ...

As noted, this is not the world's happiest film, and it certainly won't be to all tastes. But if you are at all curious about the behind the scenes of pro wrestling, or want to watch a meditation on what drives a man to risk his life for something that seems quite frivolous, then this is a well made and very well acted film. Good stuff.

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