The Wrestler may be plenty visceral, but its no more a sports movie than professional wrestling is a competitive sport. Chronic over-reacher Darren Aronofskys relatively unpretentious follow-up to the debacle that was The Fountain is all about showbiz. You want to make a comeback saga, you get a washed-up starin this case, Mickey Rourke, for whom Aronofsky and screenwriter Robert Siegel conceived the movie. Rourke gives a career performance as Randy The Ram Robinsonan amiably broken-down wrestler who was himself a star of the 1980s. Aronofsky dotes on the details of the Rams routine (securing meds, getting a perm, visiting the tanning parlor), especially his preparations for a bout. The most gruesome bout is one in which a younger, more degenerate fighter introduces the Ram to the strategic use of a staple gun. Its this bloody mess, 20 minutes into the movie, that triggers the Rams heart attack, landing him in the hospital with a doctors warning that its past time he retired. The Wrestlers vivid concern with the mortification of the flesh is given a spiritual dimension by the veteran stripper who goes by the nom de pole Cassidy (Marisa Tomei, Hollywoods go-to gal for an Oscar-quality lap-dance). Not nearly as successful is the extended subplot which has the Rams attempted reconciliation with his abandoned, fabulously hostile and disapproving daughter (Evan Rachel Wood). Rourkes character may be larger than the movie, but this time, the Ram gets ground up in the mechanics of the plot.
Starts: Jan. 9. Daily, 2009