As the credits rolled on The Wrestler, my first reaction was simple: I put in an order for a copy of Milk on DVD. I felt compelled to do so having just watched Mickey Rourke deliver a superb central performance in the title role here, as wrestler Randy The Ram some 20 years after his career high. So believable was he, that I made a vow then and there to see the performance that beat him to a Best Actor gong. Hence, one copy of Milk is heading my way.
The Wrestler, however, is some beast. Directed with grit and a close, often documentary-esque style by Darren Aronofsky, it follows Randy The Ram as he tries to relive former glories, and generally deal with the fact that his finest days were long in the past. Estranged from his daughter, and with the only company being Marisa Tomei’s stripper Cassidy, and the young lad who occasionally plays Nintendo with him in his trailer, the truth soon becomes clear that Randy needs wrestling. He needs his audience, but even that becomes threatened when a heart attack leaves him having to face a life out of the ring.
It’s a familiar story that’s been told in different guises several times before in the movies, and there’s not an awful lot of messing with the framework here. It’s quite a conventional film at heart, but then most conventional films don’t have such a powerful performance at heart. The Wrestler does, and Rourke is so terrific here, he earns the film an extra star all by himself. It’s a heart-wrenching performance, mixed in with some excellent wrestling scenes, and you never fail to buy him.
Among the supporting cast, Marisa Tomei proves that My Cousin Vinny wasn’t a fluke after all, while Evan Rachel Wood as his daughter doesn’t get too much to work with, but measures up perfectly well. Behind the camera, Darren Aronofsky delivers arguably his most accessible film to date, too. It’s arguably a little too content to stick to the genre template, albeit enlightened by those aforementioned fight scenes. But it’s married so tightly and effectively to its star, that it’s hard not to cut it a break there.
For bluntly, on this evidence, Sean Penn must have delivered a career-best turn in Milk. I’ll be finding out in a few days’ time.
The Disc A commentary track from Darren Aronofksy and Mickey Rourke is sorely missing here, and the disc – which to its shame forces you to sit through an advert for Sky Movies before it gets to the film – is actually quite light on extras.
But still, there is material worth spinning here. The highlight is the 43 minute making of documentary, Within The Ring, which actually offers some genuine insights into how the project made it to the screen. All the key players duly turn up to add their piece, and it’s genuinely an interesting piece.
The interview with Mickey Rourke that forms the second extra feature is a bit weak. It feels at first like standard syndicated guff, with the questions appearing on title cards. Fortunately, Rourke is candid enough to make this worth looking through (he admits that Aronofsky told him that he couldn’t raise a dime off Rourke’s name), and he’s both funny and honest. The final extra is the theatrical trailer, which is what it is.
It’s not, as you may have picked up, the complete disc that the film arguably deserves, but it’s a decent enough job. The making of is better than ten silly featurettes on a menu screen, but that commentary track would have been intriguing. But as things stand, not a bad job.
The Film:The Disc:
The Wrestler is out now.