The Wrestler Review – Mickey Rourke’s finest role

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Let me paint a picture for you all. It’s 2008, I was eight years old, I’d just seen my favourite wrestler, Edge, beat The Undertaker for the WWE Championship. I was wrestling mad as a kid, not so much in my teens and I rarely watch it as I rapidly climb towards adulthood in a tremendously scary manner. But I’ve still got a soft spot for the occasional PPV or wrestling themed movie. It was never going to be a surprise that I liked The Wrestler

Mickey Rourke’s leading role was a harsh look at the physical and mental excursion wrestling has on not just the wrestler but those around him. The camaraderie of the locker room, the harsh underbelly to playing up a crowd and the showmanship that endangers their lives. Rourke’s performance captures all of this in incredible fashion. Quite rightly professed as the best performance of his career, Rourke manages to portray such a strongly written character with a general ease, translating a solid script into something much more observant. 

Focusing more on the personal life of its leading characters, Rourke’s Randy Robinson and an excellent Marisa Tomei performance, playing Cassidy is just the right amount of romantic interest we need for the drama to unfold. Some loose ends here and there with other subplots lead to The Wrestler not being as conclusive as I had hoped for, but to a degree I do suppose that’s the charm of it.  

A first-time experience with director Darren Aronofsky, I enjoyed his style greatly. The scene where Robinson walks through the deli, imitating his walk to the ring is absolutely superb. Introduced as just a normal shot, as it unfolds the comparisons become much more obvious. Aronofsky is great in this regard, really blending cultural zeitgeists with a dense character and enjoyable story. A lot of his direction focuses on tracking shots, uncut, behind Rourke and often leading down various corridors. But alongside this we’ve got some great unmoving medium shots that are peppered throughout to throw in some variety. 

All of this really works, both creating some buzz for me about Aronofsky’s other movies but also helping somewhat remove the stereotype I had held for a Mickey Rourke performance. Rourke always came off as abrasive and a little bit dull, you can see Iron Man 2 and The Expendables for evidence of that. But here he seems fully invested, almost enjoying his role at times, which is by and large one of the best leading roles of the past decade or so.  

In many ways the story of The Wrestler reminds me a lot of a personal favourite wrestler of mine, Terry Funk. He was great during his prime, and as he got older and pushed himself more and more, he forgot that age is something we can neither prevent nor move away from. His performances were still strong, but the physical pain he was going through was horrifying, it showed a love for the industry, much like The Wrestler does. I just looked him up on the internet, Funk is still going, and it always worries me that many of my real-life wrestling heroes will meet with the same lifestyle as Rourke’s incredible performance in The Wrestler.  


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REVIEW OVERVIEW
The Wrestler
Ewan Gleadow
I've been writing for various different places for roughly four or five years now. Currently focusing my writing on film reviews, politics and occasional game reviews. Hopefully you enjoy my work, be sure to contact me if you have any criticisms or praise.

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