Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Tom RDD's Film Review: The Wrestler (2009)

I’ve been meaning to write on here for a while but I can never think of something really worth writing about. Most of what comes to my mind is complete ramblings but today I decided to take a leaf out of my friend Frank’s book and write a film review. So here it is, Tom RDD’s review of “The Wrestler”. *WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS!*

The film in question first needs to be put into context as to why I want to review it. Like many male kids of my generation I became transfixed with wrestling at about the age of 9. I would spend my weekday evenings and my weekend mornings watching wrestling in complete awe of the fetes being performed in front of my very eyes. Like many I grew up with the World Wrestling Federation (later renamed World Wrestling Entertainment or WWE for short) and later my interest branched out to other , sometimes independent, wrestling federations such as WCW, TNA (now a recognised Wrestling brand) and Ring Of Honour (ROH). As I grew older I kept my interest in wrestling to a degree and have never really been able to shake it off. Even to this day I occasionally watch wrestling to relive the awe I felt as a child, however I digress.

The film “The Wrestler” is a gritty portrayal of the life of pro-wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson. In the late '80s, Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was a headlining professional wrestler; however, twenty years later, he makes a living performing for handfuls of diehard fans in high school gyms and community centres around New Jersey. The film puts focus on some of the troubling things that happen in the real world of wrestling such as drug taking. In the film Randy succumbs to a heart attack because of his quest for strength and muscles which he believes he can achieve through the use of drugs and steroids. The side effects of drug use in wrestling are well know through the loss of wrestlers such as Eddie Guerrero who suffered a heart attack and passed away and Chris Benoit who was mentally ill and killed his family before taking his own life. The film also addresses the widely believed “fakeness” of wrestling. Many believe wrestling is fake (this is true to a small degree) whereas the film pushes the fact that wrestling is actually staged and pre-planned. Locker room scenes are used to show the wrestlers planning their matches and planning how they would either win or loose. The matches themselves are cleverly choreographed making them authentic and show the gruesome side of cutting (where a wrestler carries a small blade to draw their own blood) and hardcore matches where the wrestlers are put through tables, window panes and slammed onto barbed wire and thumb tacks (I defy anyway to say that is “fake”).

However, the fast paced wrestling scenes are only a small part of the film. After Randy suffers his heart attack he starts to loose his identity as he struggles to fight the loneliness and uselessness he feels within his life. In an attempt to fight against these and try to live a “normal” life he turns to an aging stripper who he has feelings for and his estranged daughter for help. At first Randy manages to rebuild his relationship with his daughter but before long his lust for in-ring action alienates him from her as he spends his nights partying with his fellow wrestlers (which include an appearance from Ron Killings aka R Truth). With his daughter refusing to see him he turns back to the only place he has ever felt he has belonged. His heart failing, he refuses to let down the fans that love and respect him and not even a last minute dash to the ring by his love interest (the stripper) can change his mind. His final match is fought against an age old opponent (which takes place in the ROH) in which Randy’s heart is seemingly giving up. The film ends with Randy jumping from the top rope whilst performing his signature move, The Ram Jam, his heart pounding and the crowed cheering we never find out if Randy wins his last match or even if survives.

The film uses impressive camera work which is more suited to independent films rather than Hollywood blockbusters and in all honest it looks better because of it. The lighting (often natural) is dark and bleak seemingly to portray not only Randy’s life, thoughts and feelings but the lives of wrestlers everywhere who fight day in and day out battling with depression, drug use and the immortally complex that the fans push onto them.

Mickey Rourke brings a quiet realism to the film and regardless of his faults is strangely likeable and brings moments of humour which are in contrast to the underlying sadness throughout the film. In my view Rourke makes this film what it is, superb. The film shows the grit and struggle of an aging, broken man and his struggle against the world outside the ring. A must see regardless if you are a wrestling fan or not, I highly recommend it. Tom RDD’s rating 9.5/10.

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