Director : Darren Aronofsky
Writer : Robert D. Siegel
Starring : Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood.
Mickey Rourke in an interview once expressed how upset he was that his role for Terence Malick in The Thin Red Line (1998) did not make the final cut because it was probably the best acting he had ever done. The controversial 56 year old Hollywood veteran earned his first Academy Award nomination for all to witness this time and has since said ;
“When I read the story and then met Darren Aronofsky I knew he was going to make me go to some dark places and it would be painful emotionally and physically. But I’m so glad I did it because it is the best work I’ve done in the best film of my career.”
The judges are unanimous as the evidence is irrefutable. Rourke fully immerses himself into the role as Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson – a legendary 1980’s wrestler who is now a washed up, beaten up, broke man decades past his prime. He works part time in a supermarket to cover his bills and gets in the ring on the weekends for a little extra cash – which by all accounts should be highly paid with some of the ‘arranged’ stunts / traumas wrestlers have to endure.
Outside work and his love of the sport, he yearns to have a relationship with his beloved local stripper Cassidy (Tomei, utterly convincing) and tries to reconcile with his daughter (Wood, who is well cast and intense) but realises that wrestling and his fans are the only thing that will ever love him. This is epitomised near the end in a scene with Cassidy, who tries to stop him going back in the ring after a near fatal heart attack but Randy sums it up for her – “My heart ?… The only place I get hurt is out there. The world don’t give a shit about me.”
Established Hollywood film maker Darren Aronofsky refuses to use the same style and techniques as each of his films are shot and edited differently. This time he opts for a low budget, raw and naturalistic approach, using real wrestlers and the use of a hand held camera. Does it work ? Does Aronofsky pull off the almost documentary film he is trying to make ? To a certain extent he does but his choices of where to place the camera throughout seem odd and are questionable. The wrestling scenes however are filmed with flair – in particular the second one, with a stylish flashback structure.
The documentary Beyond The Mat (1999) is a huge inspiration in the making of this movie. There is also a nice touch with homage paid to Taxi Driver (1976), for one scene as we see Randy with one of those people who ‘can get you anything’ – but this time substituting guns for steroids before then being offered everything from prescription drugs to cocaine. Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) went through the same process in the Martin Scorsese cult hit.
Essentially though it is the performance’s that glue this film together – take nothing away from Sean Penn but this year’s decision at the Oscars for best actor may go down in history as a ‘movie crime’.
SUPERIOR SCENE : A sign of real talent in a male actor is one who can cry convincingly on screen. Whilst trying to make peace with his daughter, Randy talks from the heart and shows real emotion – with terrific dialogue – ending with a tear. Rourke did this to similar effect in a brief 3 minute scene in The Pledge (2001).
QUALITY QUOTE : “If you live hard and play hard and you burn the candle at both ends, you pay the price for it. You know, in this life you can lose everything you love, everything that loves you.” Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson (Mickey Rourke).
RATING : 3.5 / 5 stars.
© BRWC 2010.
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