A marked departure from Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain, Darren Aronofsky’s wrestling drama features a career-best performance by Mickey Rourke.
Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson (Rourke) has been a professional wrestler for so long that he knows every play and is a legend of the circuit. But this isn’t the million-dollar circuit of WWF. Randy’s greatest days are behind him. His sight is failing. His hearing is shot. His muscles ache. And his joints burn. Motor functioning is perilously close to failing him and he consumes more drugs to deal with the pain than the average pharmacy holds in storage. But he doesn’t know any other life, so outside of serving behind a meat counter at a local store, he continues to grind out performances on the road, playing to audiences with an increasingly sadistic taste in what passes for entertainment. However, the arrival of his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and the possibility of redemption with dancer Pam (Marisa Tomei) offers Randy a beacon of hope.
After the ambitious folly of The Fountain, Aronofsky turned to a more naturalistic mode of filmmaking. The result is one of his most satisfying films. And while The Wrestler tones down the stylistic pyrotechnics of the filmmaker’s earlier work, his direction nevertheless exudes a muscular approach perfectly attuned to Randy’s turbulent life. But Aronofsky’s efforts might all have been in vain if Rourke didn’t commit himself so fully to his role. The actor-turned-turned-boxer-turned-comeback-kid convinces with his flamboyant displays in the ring. But it’s in the quieter moments, as Randy comes to terms with his life’s lot, that Rourke blazes in the way that made him such an watchable, unstoppable force in the 1980s.