The Wrestler

Much has been said about Mickey Rourke's "comeback" performance as a battered, aging professional wrestler in this film. Those critics who rave about this have forgotten Rourke's wonderful work in Sin City, the only bit of substance in a movie that was nothing but style. Maybe they think that one doesn't count because Rourke was buried under tons of makeup. (What, then, do they make of John Hurt in The Elephant Man?) Also, I hesitate to call this film a "comeback", not only because Rourke never stopped working, but because I'm not convinced that it will open the doors for more leading roles for the troubled actor, whose face is now a roadmap of bad decisions, ruined either by boxing, plastic surgery, or both.

It's still a terrific performance, both heartfelt and extremely physical. I just wish this film deserved it.

I am no fan of director Darren Aronofsky's work. It is nice to see him leaving his hokey pretensions behind, copping a vérité style reminiscent of Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. But if he worked hard to get a great performance out of Rourke, he stumbled in casting the overacting Evan Rachel Wood as Rourke's hysterically angry daughter. (Marisa Tomei, who is proving more and more willing to get naked for a role as she ages gracefully, contributes typically solid work.)

The film itself isn't bad. It's just limp. Rourke's character, Randy "The Ram" Robinson, has a heart attack after a cheap bout, and must decide whether to go straight or to risk a potentially fatal repeat if he continues to wrestle. The story's told honestly, and offers a poignant glimpse into the pro wrestling community, but it's all wrapped up with something of a shrug. Rourke, however, is fully dedicated to his character, and for that he deserves all the acclaim he's been getting. He's actually better here than he was in anything he did in the '80s, when he was "big" (for all of four years).