Salvation is a common theme in movies – one in which a flawed but undeniably good character is driven to change internally, make amends and become the hero. The Wrestler tweaks this formula by establishing two worlds – the wrestling world and reality – and questioning whether glory as a fabricated persona can lead to actual salvation.
Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) is a washed-up professional wrestler who led a celebrity lifestyle in the ’80s. Now he works at a supermarket and wrestles in front of a few hundred fans in run-down gymnasiums.
Randy’s mind stays in just two places: inside and outside of the wrestling ring. Inside, the chants from the crowd still echo loudly and a weight seems to be lifted from his battered shoulders. He becomes “The Ram” and life is only as simple as taking down the man in front of him. But outside the ring, his life is a string of failures – his daughter hates him and his body begins to break down.
Rourke’s performance is the centerpiece of The Wrestler, for he truly is “The Ram.” Watching his character struggle through life outside the ring only makes the wrestling scenes more poignant. The story drags in places and the supporting characters are disposable, but the dichotomy in the grappler’s life and the constant push-and-pull are compelling. It becomes a question of which of his worlds will prevail, and if his story will end in destruction or salvation.
The Wrestler places a familiar story within an uncommon setting, but its deeply troubled hero truly resonates.
Rating: 3 out of 4