A drama centered on retired professional wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke), well past his prime, as he makes his way through the independent circuit. As he faces health problems that may end his wrestling career for good he attempts to come to terms with his life outside the ring.
I should probably preface this review with the fact that I grew up loving wrestling and watching it every Saturday morning as my heroes like Jerry Lawler, Tommy Rich and Bill Dundee pummeled each other for 90 minutes. You don't have to have a relationship with wrestling (or rasslin' as we call it in the South) but I think you'll enjoy the movie as much as I did if you do. Even more modern organizations like ECW and Ring of Honor (ROH) get recognized here. But that's not all the movie is about.
Rourke perfectly plays a wrestler who was once on top and is now trying to find himself and put his life together outside the ring and the spotlight of fame it brought him. There's an obvious parallel to Rourke's career here and I'm sure many others can relate, people of all professions and levels of fame. Thanks to Mickey's performance and the director's (Darren Aronofsky) it becomes an extremely emotionally-engaging character study of someone falling from fame. The Ram knows what he needs to do to not become what he sees other old wrestlers have become at a gut-wrenching autograph show scene, but he still is barrelling head-first right into just that.
And Aronofsky treats wrestling respectfully, a task that's not so easy to do and is rarely seen. There's a lot of backstage stuff and he shows the blood, sweat and love that goes into the "sport" for it's "competitors". It's sort of fun to try to name some of the wrestlers in the film if you are a fan, and there are lots of them. I noticed Ernest "The Cat" Miller (big role), Ron Killings and Nigel McGuinness as the easier ones but there are a lot of indy and small promotion guys like Johnny Mangus, Devon Moore, The Funky Samoans, Jay Lethal, Jim Powers, and Kid USA all through the movie.
What else is there to like? Well Marisa Tomei plays a role that calls for a lot of skin to be shown (she's a stripper) and I'll be the first to say this is the hottest 44-year-old woman on this planet. Somehow she still seemed graceful and sympathetic in the difficult role.
And do you like 80s metal? You know I do. The Ram comes to the ring with Quiet Riot's "Metal Health" cranking. The soundtrack also include songs from Accept, Ratt, Scorpions, Slaughter and Guns N' Roses. The characters have a conversation about Def Leppard, Motley Crue and Ratt and talk about how Cobain screwed up good music and Marisa's character even wears a Motley Crue shirt during the film's key moment. Maybe the best 80s metal scene though is the couple singing Ratt's "Round and Round" at a dive bar while Rourke dances. Instant classic.
Ultimately, this is a movie that transcends professional wrestling and is just one damn fine movie with one of the better performances I've ever seen in a film by Rourke. This is as good of a movie as I've seen in years. So why not a 10? I think the ending could have been a bit better. That may be my only complaint with the whole film.