‘The Wrestler’ triumphs as Aronovsky delivers again

Chandy Clemens

Randy “The Ram” Robinson, the epitome of the riches-to-rags story, struggles to revive his pro-wrestling career that peaked in the 1980s.

But like so many of the one-hit wonders of the era, the Ram spirals downwards into a life of degradation.

“Ram Jam” fails to be a frequently used catch phrase in the modern age and the best he can get are side gigs for wrestling enthusiasts every other weekend. And who better to portray such a man down on his luck than Mickey Rourke?

Mickey Rourke embodies the Ram like a kindred spirit.

Rourke appeared on the film scene also in the ‘80s, an up-and-comer who had been drawing heavy comparisons to a brooding star of cinema’s Golden Age, Marlon Brando.

Notorious for turning down some of the biggest leading roles in films such as “Silence of the Lambs” and “Rainman,” Rourke impulsively decided to bow out from the limelight and turn to professional boxing.

An ill-advised choice (more or less ruined his earlier career), Rourke returned to Hollywood after a ten year hiatus from acting, making a strong comeback in Robert Rodriguez’s “Sin City.”

“Sin City” may have been his “comeback”, but “The Wrestler” is a landmark performance, reviving Rourke from the shallow ranks of “worn goods” eternally.

We see Rourke as we would have seen the Ram.

The desperation, the loneliness, the ugly truth of a man realizing his limitations and regrettable indiscretions, rourke dishes up raw humanity in every tragic sense.

Robinson settles for a life without the glamour he once saw in the ‘80s.

His estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood, exemplary in the half hour she’s in it) hates him, and despite his pursuance of courting a dancer at the local strip-club (Marisa Tomei in an emotionally subtle, but physically demanding performance), Robinson lives alone in a ramshackle trailer.

Maybe the Ram just sounds like an ex-drug addict in poverty, but his spirit is never broken even in the face of adversity.

For that, he is not deplorable, but instead, inspirational.

“The Wrestler” is a stirring tale that wouldn’t have seen the light of day if it weren’t for the insistent nature of Darren Aronofsky.

Aronofsky is a skilled craftsman who has taken the most heartbreaking subjects (i.e. “Requiem for a Dream,” “The Fountain” and now “The Wrestler”) and turned them into some of the most effectual cinematic pieces you’ll see.