Opening 26 Feb 2009
Aging professional wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) wants to hold on to his dream of a comeback and fans. Reality conversely means intermittent unpaid bills and sleeping in his van, appeasing adoring youngsters, agonizing pain, physical enhancing drugs, tan and hair color salon appointments, glasses, a hearing aid and his neglected past. A loner, Randy’s seedy world revolves around weekend fringe wrestling matches where his equals value him, a hands-off rapport with exotic dancer Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) and a weekday supermarket job in the loading area, out of sight and contact with customers who might recognize him. A showdown with former rival “The Ayatollah” (Ernest Miller) is proposed and Randy agrees.
Following a “hard-core” match, Randy regains consciousness in a hospital; this is a “wake-up” call. “The Ram” acquiesces to his body’s demands, with unexpected humor and affability. As he regains strength he reaches out to Cassidy who suggests he call his daughter, alienated Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood). Skeptical, Randy tries; after an initial encounter he decides to buy Stephanie a present, asks Cassidy for help and surprisingly she agrees. Randy gains a toe-hold with Stephanie to whom he confesses, “I just don’t want you to hate me.” Meanwhile he informs associates that “The Ram” is retired, takes on extra weekend work paradoxically at the supermarket’s deli counter, and seems to have accepted this precarious future.
The universal insatiability humans have for self-inflicted torture to both body and soul is appositely set in the pro wrestling milieu. This could have teetered toward a tear-jerker, Mickey Rourke comeback film. Instead Darren Aronofsky’s balanced direction, in concert with compelling performances from an excellent troupe and a large contingent of real-life wrestling stars, is a revelation into this sport… be prepared for authentic action. Robert D. Siegel’s screenplay resonates blue-collar lifestyle: equal parts misery, humor and hope. We miss little: Maryse Alberti’s camera is both hand-held and fixed with propitious editing from Andrew Weisblum. We are privy to a poignantly intimate look into the personal abyss of someone’s valiant effort to reverse the course of his life. Too little too late: destiny and dreams collide. “The Ram” has been able to keep the illusion of what was alive, but it does not guarantee his future. Rourke’s iconic performance marks this haunting film as a classic. (Marinell Haegelin)