Home > Movies, My Movie Reviews > Mickey Rourke Reaches Acting Perfection In “The Wrestler”

Mickey Rourke Reaches Acting Perfection In “The Wrestler”


It’s been a very lucky string of early screenings for Cinematically Correct. I have been fortunate enough to see “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Milk” well before they will be released in the United States. Two nights ago, Ms. Cinematically Correct and I were again lucky and we were able to see “The Wrestler”. This was made even more special because it was followed by a Q&A with director Darren Aronofsky and star Marisa Tomei. I didn’t ask a question (I left that to the Aronofsky fanboys) but if I would have, I would have asked them this: “How does it feel to have made one of the best movies of 2008?”

Quite simply put, “The Wrestler” is one of the best movies I have seen so far this year. Every single frame is so brutally realistic that it is easy to forget this is indeed a fictional account about a broken down man. This is an amazingly real and intense look at what it is like to once live a dream and then have that dream come crashing down around you. It has the look and feel of a true story, with none of it actually being true.

The wrestler that we are watching in “The Wrestler” is Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke). “The Ram” was a professional wrestling star in the mid-to-late 80s and was once a World Champion. He wrestled as the main event in sold out Madison Square Garden and had reached the top of the professional wrestling world. He had a VHS tape series, a video game, and thousands of fans across the country. We learn all of this during the opening credits and then, we see “The Ram” 20 years later.

“The Ram” is not doing well. He travels around and is barely paid for his appearances in independent wrestling events. He seems to only speak to two people, his HGH dealer (with whom he shares the funniest scene in the movie) and his stripper friend Cassidy (Marisa Tomei). There isn’t any doubt that Randy cares for Cassidy, who rebukes his advances as she doesn’t want to violate that strict stripper/customer boundary.

During a particularly brutal wrestling match involving barbed wire, thumbtacks, and broken glass, Randy suffers a heart attack and has emergency double bypass surgery. This sets off a chain of events that lead to his forced retirement and his attempt, at the urging of Cassidy, to reconcile with his estranged daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood).

If I went into this story any further, it would truly ruin an exceptional movie. I almost feel that I have told too much but knowing these things will not change the fact that this is a very moving story told with perfection by director Darren Aronofsky and screenwriter Robert Siegel. The entire movie is shot with handheld cameras and it places you right in the ring with “The Ram”. It also gives off a documentary-style vibe that makes this amazingly realistic movie even more real.

Marisa Tomei really goes for it in this movie and is quite brave in the fact that she is either nude or barely dressed for the majority of the movie. She is very much broken down mentally, tired of being a stripper, and, even worse, aging in her profession, just like Randy. Evan Rachel Wood is only in three or four scenes and she does well with what she has to do, which is be angry with her lousy father.

Of course, “The Wrestler” belongs to Mickey Rourke. There will be plenty said about how similar Randy “The Ram” Robinson’s life is to Rourke’s own. While that may be true, there is no doubt that the similarities inspired Rourke to create and portray one of the most imperfect characters in recent movie memory. From the first second he is on screen, he dominates it. If Tomei is brave for baring her skin, Rourke goes even further and bares his soul. You feel every fall, physical and mental, that “The Ram” feels and that is all due to Rourke, who has given an iconic acting performance for the books.

It goes without saying that I can’t recommend seeing this movie enough. It is a rarity to see acting, writing, cinematography, and directing click like they have done in “The Wrestler”. Inevitably, this movie will be compared to “Raging Bull”, but it feels like a more personal story than that great Scorsese masterpiece. “The Wrestler” has something going for it that other movies like it don’t and it is all due to Mickey Rourke. You want to root for him, regardless of his flaws.

At one point, Randy “The Ram” Robinson acknowledges that he is a failure and all he could hope for is that his daughter doesn’t hate him. He shouldn’t worry because not a single person ever should.

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  1. November 21, 2008 at 1:51 PM

    I know jealousy makes one nasty, and as much as I try to conceal it, I am feeling pretty darn nasty right now 😉

    Kidding, I’m glad for you. The Wrestler is my most anticipated film of the year, for sure.

  2. January 13, 2009 at 11:39 PM

    i was wondering what happened to Mickey Rourke, then there he was at the Golden Globes

  3. June 24, 2009 at 2:02 AM

    I really liked this movie, great job Mickey.

  4. Frank Reyna
    September 16, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    I just saw this movie on a very late schedule on TV, I had finished doing my job then as tired as I was, couldn’t get of the screen. An amazing move, even I’m not a fan of Mikey Rourke (but definitely for Marisa!) I truly felt all the emotions, sadness and courage of the story had for us. Congrat’s

  1. January 7, 2009 at 3:47 PM

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