The Westler – a film review

Posted on January 24, 2009

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I am a long-time fan of Mickey Rourke. He always seems to bring a brooding sense of menace to his roles that intrigues me. His career stalled with personal problems but The Wrestler was announced as being the resurrection of his career. So I was interested to see just how the film lived up to that degree of hype.

I was impressed. Rourke was perfect for that role and his award success to date and Oscar nomination was well deserved. I had quite deliberately not read anything about the film before going to the theatre. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to see that Marisa Tomei was his co-star as I have a real soft spot for her. Her Oscar nomination was also well deserved.

Twenty years ago, Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson was at the top of the professional wrestling game. Today, he is stacking supermarket shelves and struggling to pay the rent on a mobile home in a trailer park. Reliant on painkillers and steroids, he continues to wrestle in small shows for die-hard fans.

Early in the film we see a wonderful scene ‘backstage’ where the wrestlers are deciding what moves are going to be done in which match.

Following a particularly brutal match that is more gore fest than anything else, Randy is forced to re-evaluate his life. His only real relationship is with the aging stripper, Cassidy (Tormei). Their relationship starts to develop and he also re-establishes contact with his long-estranged daughter. But the only world that Randy is able to really make sense of is that of professional wrestling. Things begin to unravel once more and Randy has to find some way to cope.

There will be many people who will be turned off from the film because of the professional wrestling angle. But it is much more than that. It is much grittier and darker than Stallone’s Rocky and does not try to hide from the fact that professional wrestling is a performance, albeit one that can be brutally hard on the performers. The film also looks at the question of how does a professional athlete or performer cope once their best days are behind them and that world no longer really wants them.

Mickey Rourke is simply wonderful in this role. He is more than an actor playing that role, he becomes Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson. I suspect his performance may reflect the fact that the film could be seen as something of a metaphor for his own life and career. Whatever the case, it was wonderful. Marisa Tomei was a wonderful support and looked wonderful – and I’m not just saying that because she is seen in full swing as a bare-breasted pole dancer and lap dancer. But then again I am rather biased about Ms Tomei (be still my beating heart).

I thoroughly recommend the film.

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