The Wrestler Review

The Wrestler, mmm, you know, I didn’t catch it in the theaters. I wanted to, just never got a chance is all. So of course I jumped at the chance to review the Blu-ray, which isn’t really all that packed with features, meaning that I could focus on the film itself. So, focusing on the film itself, I face a dilemma, and that is, “What can I say about this film that hasn’t been said by hundreds or thousands of people more qualified to say it?”

Being in my early 20s, The Wrestler certainly paints a morbid portrait of later life. Having aspirations to entertain, much like our protagonist Randy “The Ram” (Mickey Rourke), it’s fairly horrific, physically upsetting even, to take in a possible outcome of my dreams and goals like Randy’s. But the fact remains that I am, in fact, in my early 20s, and cannot – and will not – presume to completely understand the torment such an existence as Randy’s brings.

As a filmgoer and critic, I’m asked to put myself in the characters’ shoes as I follow them on their 90-minute journeys. But this isn’t something I have any point of reference for. Sure, I can say I relate to the character on a theoretical level, but it’ll be some decades, I think, for the sheer weight of Randy’s plight to completely hit me. At this point, it merely represents a point of reference for character studies, and how uncompromisingly poignant and touching I can perceive them to be.

Being someone who’s loved all of Darren Aronofsky’s works thus far, I recognize that this is clearly closer in structure to his debut, Pi, than to the much more heralded Requiem For A Dream or the polarizing The Fountain. Truth be told, without seeing them all again, I couldn’t tell you which one means the most to me. I feel such an overwhelming physical sadness while watching Requiem, but I think that’s largely due to the frantic, kinetic presentation of the story. The Wrestler represents a more inward, voyeuristic style for Aronofsky. It hasn’t been glamorized in the least, and it hasn’t been meticulously stylized in dream mode like The Fountain. It shows you, simply, what’s happening, and allows you to make of it what you will. I can’t pick a favorite from Aronofsky’s works, but in terms of how much sorrow he can wring from us using just actors and a camera, free of aggrandized special effects and overpowering assaults on the senses, The Wrestler is without equal.

The Video

The film was shot digitally, and it looks beautiful. The image has an intentionally dirty and muted look to it, and this style is preserved beautifully on Blu-ray. A fine layer of grain lies over the picture but only adds to the style of the film. Lights flare beautifully and, even with a visual style as de-saturated as this, colors pop brilliantly off of tights and winter coats alike. As fine detail goes, I really couldn’t say anything negative. It’s not a visual presentation like Sin City’s recent release on Blu-ray, but it’s absolutely not trying to be. A far beyond solid transfer.

The Audio

The music in this film, gosh, so great... Anyway, this type of movie is what I love most about surround sound; it’s mostly talking, but when you’re in the moment, when the Ram has just won a match or when he’s triumphantly stampeding around the ring, high-fiving fans, the powerhouse 80s music utterly engulfs you. It really gets you pumped, like you’re there. I said earlier in the review that the film doesn’t try to overpower you, but there are moments in the wrestling scenes where you just can’t feel anything but the energy of the music and the crowd. For brief moments, Aronofsky makes you forget about everything outside of the arena and understand why the Ram does what he does, and why he loves it more than anything.

The Extras

Like I said, these are pretty scarce, but what is there is pretty good. There’s a somewhat strangely edited documentary that runs about 40 minutes, featuring interviews with cast and crew. It’s pretty decent, but sometimes its penchant for avant garde documentary techniques will catch you off-guard. Next we have a roundtable discussion with some all-stars of professional wrestling who shed some very personal thoughts on the film and their connection with its lead character. I could’ve done with less of this, but at about 28 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome too long.

Finally, there is a music video for Bruce Springsteen’s touching single, and a digital copy of the movie for those of you that care.


This movie is excellent. Buy it.

"The Wrestler" is on sale April 21, 2009 and is rated R. Drama. Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Written by Robert Siegel. Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Mickey Rourke.

Saul Berenbaum

I feel that movies can be great in many ways. I feel that a great movie could be an artistic masterpiece or a guns-a'blazin' roller-coaster, pure magic or pure camp. There is another type of film, which I detest more than those which are horrible - Those which are mediocre, unremarkable.


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