bill bodkin introduces a new weekly series, Rent It, in which he suggests a movie for you to rent — usually something under the radar or a cult classic …
Pro wrestling and Bill Bodkin are as synonymous as Bill Bodkin and peanut butter. It is a staple of my life. For more than 20 years, I have spent thousands of dollars on tapes, DVDs, pay-per-views, magazines, books and T-shirts, been to over 20 live events, watched countless hours of wrestling programs and dedicated huge amount of ink to the sport while writing for the paper in college. As a lad, I would constantly talk about wrestling, perform moves on unwilling friends — I even wrote my own fantasy wrestling promotion for about four years. Hell, many people I know even thought I would get involved in wrestling as a career, whether it be as a performer or writer.
So to me, The Wrestler, a serious look at the world of professional wrestling, was something I desperately wanted to see. And this past January, I finally got to see what I believe is one of my favorite films … of all time. And I think it’s a movie you should rent — immediately.
The Wrestler revolves around a broken-down former superstar named Randy “The Ram” Robinson. “The Ram” is a Hulk Hogan-esque character who didn’t catch the breaks that the Hulkster did in his life — well at least in the ’80s and ’90s. In fact, the Ram’s life is eerily reminiscent of many former wrestling stars: popping pills, broke, without family and living only for the adulation of the crowd, even if it’s one in a local VFW. As you can tell, this isn’t the happiest of flicks.
As a wrestling fan, I was completely blown away by the actual wrestling action. The believability of the matches were what initially sucked me into this movie. Mickey Rourke really went all out — not only developing himself in terms of his physique, but also knowing how to actually wrestle. The matches by themselves are really fun to watch. It made me believe in the film because of it shows brutal realism of being in the ring. If this had been done any less seriously, the movie would’ve fallen apart.
The film gets bonus points for its soundtrack. Rife with great heavy metal from Ratt, Guns N’ Roses, Quiet Riot, as well as a heartbreaking ballad from The Boss. Double bonus points for the movie being set in my home state of New Jersey.
Outside of the action and the music, what makes The Wrestler great is the story and the acting.
The plot is extremely simple, one we’ve seen before: beat-down guy gets second chance at life — will he blow it or will he make the most of it? And while we all know this story, it is fresh and extremely personal and that is thanks to director Darren Aronofsky.
Like the brutal realism we see in the ring, Aronofsky deftly weaves the brutal reality of Randy’s life in between sequences of bodyslams and headlocks. Aronofsky is able to take a plot used a million times and draw an audience in, build hope your hope that Randy can turn the corner and any time the Ram stumbles on his path to redemption you fall with him. To me, that is the mark of a truly great director — he makes you feel everything the main character does, from the bitter cold of a frozen Jersey tundra to the roar of the crowd.
But Aronofsky could not have made this movie as powerful as it is without Rourke. He is this movie. You almost forgot he’s Mickey Rourke and believe he is Randy The Ram. Maybe this is due to the parallel between the character and Rourke’s own fall from grace. Either way, Rourke owns this role ,and even though Sean Penn was great in Milk, I believe Rourke deserved the Best Actor Oscar.
I could probably ramble on about this movie for days, but I will not. The only thing I ask is that you should get to the movies and see this film as soon as you can. Even if you are not a wrestling fan, you can truly appreciate a tremendously gripping story with a truly phenomenal performance — both physical and emotional.