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The Wrestler (4 stars)

(15) 109min

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The Wrestler

DRAMA/SPORT

‘What happened, did the price of tights go up?’ a sneering store-manager taunts Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson (Mickey Rourke) when the impoverished wrestling star comes looking for work. Fighting a losing battle with his own finances, Randy trades on vulgar past glories by taking regular beatings on the independent wrestling circuit. Not averse to carving wounds in his forehead with a razor to simulate

serious head-trauma, The Ram hits rock bottom after a skin-shreddingencounter with a sadomasochist rival wielding a staple gun, a glass door and a stepladder. Weakened by a heart bypass operation, Randy ends up tradinghis day-glo leggings for an apron-and-hairnet combo, working behind the corner of a local deli.

The traditional ‘boxer one punch away from death’ formula provides a salty mix of brutal comedy and subtle tragedy in Darren Aronofsky’s accomplished character study. After the arty pretension of Pi, Requiem For A Dream and The Fountain, Aronofsky has successfully toned down his high-minded ideas, and coaxes a crowd-pleasing performance from an ideally cast Rourke.

Much like Randy, Rourke’s 1980’s heyday in films such as Angel Heart or Rumblefish led to decades of shambling self-parody, but The Wrestler provides perfect comeback material. Down on his luck but never a downer, Randy’s colourful, irrepressible chutzpah places him alongside Paul Newman’s Fast Eddie Felson at the seedier end of cinema’s sporting heroes; as Randy pinballs between his sullen daughter (Rachel Evan Wood) and aging stripper Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), Rourke and Aronofsky imbue The Wrestler’s struggle with realism, fight, and a big vulnerable heart.

General release from Fri 16 Jan.

The Wrestler: Trailer

The Wrestler

  • 4 stars
  • 2008
  • US
  • 109 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
  • Written by: Robert D Siegel
  • Cast: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

Impoverished wrestler Randy 'The Ram' Robinson (Rourke), fighting a losing battle with his finances, trades on vulgar past glories by taking regular beatings on the independent wrestling circuit. Not averse to carving wounds in his forehead to simulate serious damage, Randy finally hits rock bottom, but can he climb back?

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