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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Wrestler DVD Review

THE WRESTLER - An Alliance Films Release


On DVD: April 21st, 2009

Rated 14A for sexual content, coarse language, and violence.

Running time: 109 minutes

Darren Aronofsky (dir.)

Mickey Rourke as Randy “The Ram” Robinson

Marissa Tomei as Cassidy-[Pam]

Evan Rachel Wood as Stephanie

Special Features:

• The Wrestler Music Video

Mickey Rourke stars in The WRESTLER, an Alliance Films’ release.

All images © 2009 Alliance All Rights Reserved. Distributed exclusively in Canada by Alliance Films. All Rights Reserved. / © 2009 Alliance Vivafilm. Tous droits réservés. Distribué exclusivement au Canada par Alliance Vivafilm. Tous droits réservés.

Our reviews below:


The Wrestler Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

While I am not a fan of wrestling, The Wrestler is a powerful and moving film. Randy “The Ram” Robinson was a well known name in the world of wrestling in the late 1980’s. Flash forward 20 years and he is a washed up has-been, competing in small matches at schools and community centres, barely making enough money to pay for his trailer. He has a heart attack after a particularly brutal fight and is forced into retirement. At this point in “The Ram’s” life, wrestling is the only identity he has. He tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel-Wood), and falls in love with an exotic dancer, Cassidy (Marisa Tomei).

The film shows a dirty and gritty portrayal of wrestling. In the film’s most brutal and disgusting fight scene, the wrestlers use barbed wire, thumbtacks and a staple gun against each other. Inside the ring, they really do get hurt. They have become so desensitized to being hurt in the real world, that inside the ring they will injure themselves for the enjoyment of the audience. At times the film is not pleasant to watch, but always keeps us hooked in the story line.

Darrin Aronofsky’s film is not a masterpiece because of it’s brutally realistic portrait of life inside the ring, but because of it’s painfully honest portrayal of the wrestlers outside the ring. Battered, broken down people who can’t shake their identity of who they once were. Most impressive about Mickey Rourke’s brilliant performance is that it is a comeback of epic proportions. The end of the film is left up to interpretation, but is perfect in every way. Probably the most moving and real film ever made about the world of wrestling.

The DVD’s sole bonus feature is Bruce Springsteen’s The Wrestler music video. I have no idea why that song was not nominated for Best Original Song at the Oscar’s. It’s surprising that the DVD does not have any more bonus features, but what can you do? It’s still a great film, one of the very best of last year.


The Wrestler DVD Review By Erin V.

***1/4 (out of 4)

The Wrestler is the story of Randy “The Ram” Robinson, (Mickey Rourke), a wrestler who is finding it hard to admit that he is at the end of his career. After a particularly brutal wrestling match, he has a heart attack, and is told in the hospital that he must give up wrestling. It is what he knows, and by giving it up, he finds it kind of hard, as though giving up a piece of himself. One of his only real friends is Cassidy, ([or Pam], played by Marisa Tomei), who is a stripper at a club that he frequents. Feeling very alone, she suggests that he go find his estranged daughter, Stephanie, (Evan Rachel Wood), to make amends with her. This is the story of a man who is so into the life of wrestling that he has created for himself, he knows practically nothing else. And it is one that can come crashing down all too easily.

The Wrestler is not really my kind of movie. I am not into professional wrestling, and a few of the scenes were quite violent, and I looked away several times. This being said, I cannot really give it four stars. Some people may disagree with me, but I can see why this wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. It got the acting noms both for Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei, and they are well deserved. It is the acting that really carries this movie. Don’t get me wrong, to a certain extent, I did enjoy this movie - just not so much the violence and nudity. I am writing this literally just after watching it, and I still can’t decide between three, or three and a half stars, hence the rating I have chosen above...

The only special feature on this DVD is the Bruce Sprinsteen music video for his title song ‘The Wrestler’. Before seeing the movie, I had heard the song, and while it was slightly surprising that it was not on the nomination list for Best Song, (for some reason, they only nominated three instead of five this year), I was not overly shocked. I must say, that after seeing the movie, the song does mean more to me. It is a very good song and the music video they made seems to fit it. While the song was passed over at the Oscars, it did take home the Golden Globe.

Overall, The Wrestler is worth checking out mostly for the acting. That is what carries this movie. Whether or not it would be more worth renting or owning, I can’t say for sure. With only one extra, (the music video), you could easily get through the whole DVD by renting. For me? This wouldn’t be one that I would be watching over and over again. While it is very well made and acted, I would say if you just want to check it out, a rental would be fine.


The Wrestler DVD Review By Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

It is good to see a film that takes a critical look at what society sees as entertainment, and the industry’s effect on people. The Wrestler follows Randy “The Ram” Robinson, an aging wrestler, who is now pushed to the side 20 years after his popularity has died down. No longer working professionally, Randy still performs locally, at school and community centre gyms. But when Randy sustains a heart attack during a particularly brutal performance, his wrestling days are over. So Randy tries to rebuild his life. He befriends a woman named Pam, who works at a strip club, and goes by the name of “Cassidy”. Randy is able to look beyond Pam’s rough exterior, and see her a person and a friend. At Pam’s advice, Randy visits his estranged daughter, Stephanie, whom he has not seen in several years. Over time, Randy begins to see how his past has affected his life.

Normally, I wouldn’t watch a movie with this level of violence. The first fight scenes at the beginning are brutal, so sensitive views will want to look away. However, they are integral to the story, and really capture how far people will go in the name of entertainment. This paralleled in the scenes with Pam, which show how strip clubs are nothing but exploitative to women. The nudity in these scenes is not exploitative, but necessary to bring home the dehumanizing reality of strip clubs. In this movie we really see the human sides of Randy, and Pam. We also see how Stephanie is affected by Randy’s past. Mickey Rourke and Marissa Tomei are perfect in their roles, and very believable. Although The Wrestler is in no way a happy movie, it is a very moving and believable film.

The only extra on this DVD is a music video of Bruce Springsteen’s song “The Wrestler”. While it may have been nice to have more bonus features, the music video is worth seeing. Bruce Springsteen's song is very moving and memorable. The song, in both melody and lyrics really sum up the film, and I don’t understand why it wasn’t nominated for Best Song at the Oscars.

The Wrestler, while hard to watch at times, is an excellent movie, which should be added to your collection.


The Wrestler DVD Review By Maureen

*** (out of 4)

I wasn’t looking forward to seeing this movie because neither the world of wrestling nor the exotic dancer club scene appeal to me. However Mickey Rourke’s performance as has been wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson won me over. While the wrestling scenes were still hard for me to watch it was interesting seeing the theatrical performers take on an identity.

The strength of this film is the struggle “The Ram” has in wrestling through an identity crisis after a heart attack forces him into retirement. Watching this clearly aging, and broken man come to terms with his physical limitations and his fragile relationship with his daughter was moving. The viewer grows to feel for Randy “The Ram” and wants things to work out for him with his daughter and with his budding romance with exotic dancer, Cassandra/Pam (nicely acted by Marisa Tomei). There is frustration then when he is drawn back into the only identity he is comfortable with, professional wrestling. The conclusion to this movie is inevitable. As frustrating as it is for the viewer, it is the only ending that rings true.

The Wrestler is worth checking out on DVD if you can get past the gritty wrestling and club scenes. Mickey Rourke’s performance makes it worth while. The DVD only comes with one bonus feature - a music video of Bruce Springsteen's title song, “The Wrestler”.


The Wrestler DVD Review By Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Randy “The Ram” (Mickey Rourke) is a wrestler whose best years are behind him. Though well-liked and respected by his colleagues and fans on the eastern seaboard, he has to work part time in a supermarket to make ends meet, and sleeps in his van when he is in arrears on the trailer he rents. He befriends a stripper Pam (Marisa Tomei), who also is nearing the end of her career, but at first she feels a need to keep her professional distance. Both characters could only feel fulfilled when performing. After he has a heart attack and recovers from bypass surgery, Pam encourages him to contact his estranged daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), now at university. Rejected at first after many years of neglect, he persuades her to spend a day with him, but their relationship remains fragile. Bored with retirement and ashamed to be recognized serving deli customers in a hairnet, he decides to reenter the ring.

By now many people are aware of the parallels in this film between actor and character. Trained at the Actors Studio, Mickey Rourke had a brilliant career in the 1980s but like Marlon Brando had an attitude that alienated his colleagues and his acting career largely dried up. He had some success as a boxer. With therapy and the support of friends like Sean Penn, Sylvester Stallone and Robert Rodriguez he appeared in a few films over the past few years. Despite his track record, Darren Aronofsky knew he had to do this film. With the discipline imposed on him by the director and wrestling coaches, Mickey Rourke rose to the incredible challenges of learning a punishing new sport and confronting his own demons to take on this role. Marisa Tomei had her own challenge of learning the art of exotic dancing.

Personally I am not a sports fan, much less for wrestling, which is more choreography than competition. Its real physical challenges deserve at least grudging admiration however, despite the gratuitous bloodshed from “gigging” (self-cutting with concealed razor blades), staples, barbed wire, and broken glass. With a small budget of five million dollars, The Wrestler takes us into this world as well as the world of strip clubs and the outside world, largely with handheld cameras. Real venues with crowds of real fans were used. A lot was improvised, including Randy’s interaction with the other wrestlers outside the ring and his work behind the deli counter in a real supermarket with some real customers among the actors. Essentially on probation, Mickey Rourke agreed to work for nothing up front, and as a favour to him Bruce Springsteen wrote and performed the closing song for free.

The DVD has no extras except for an unplugged video of Bruce Springsteen’s title song. The website makes up for it with all kinds of material, including long interviews between Darren Aronofsky and Danny Boyle and between Mickey Rourke and Charlie Rose.


Mickey Rourke and Marissa Tomei star in Darren Aronofsky’s THE WRESTLER, an Alliance Films’ release.


Consensus: The Wrestler is worth checking out, especially if you are into film. It is nice to finally see what everyone has been talking about. Mickey Rourke’s comeback performance carries this movie, taking it to an extra level. ***1/2 (Out of 4)

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