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   November 23, 2014



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Hollywood answers bell
By GARY HOWARD - Pembroke Daily Observer


Most of my movie watching these days is confined to television, but every once in a while I find it compelling to check out one of Hollywood's offerings on the big screen.

The movie, "The Wrestler" has been out for some time now but only recently rolled into Algonquin Cinemas at the East End Mall. The movie has received rave reviews as has Mickey Rourke for his portrayal of a fading professional wrestler hanging onto the bottom rope of his career. It has also pumped new life into Rourke's acting career.

Even though Rourke has not been one of my favourite actors in the past, he gives a compelling performance as Randy "The Ram" Robinson. It is a role that has earned him a Golden Globe for best actor and a nomination for an Academy Award, which the referees of the motion picture industry awarded to Sean Penn for his work in Milk.

Rourke is the type of actor who mumbles a lot in the method acting style of James Dean and Marlon Brando. But as the down-and-out wrestler known as "The Ram," his ring appearance and bloated physique from too much steroid use are completely convincing.

The movie itself is very true to the state of wrestling today and in the past several decades, where excessive use of steroids was in play. One poignant scene in the movie sees Rourke buying over $900 worth of steroids, drugs and painkillers in the dressing room from a fellow worker. He is even offered Viagra, which he politely declines.

While the movie centres on the modern era of the game, the rise and fall of the main character can easily be equated to wrestling in an earlier period. For the past several years I have interviewed and researched the careers of many wrestlers for a popular Internet website known as Slam!Wrestling. It didn't come as much of a surprise to discover that many of the wrestlers from the 1940s and 1950s lived life in the fast lane. They like to recall the fun times and the many ribs they played on each other, but in reality some in the profession hit the skids or lived short lives.

But that's not to condemn the majority of grunt-and-groaners who made good lives for themselves and provided for their families. There was a close bond in the wrestling fraternity from that era and it remains today as many former wrestlers are reluctant to talk about their peers.

In recent times, however, too many tell-all books have been written that expose the inner workings of the game and the rampant use of drugs and steroids. Director Darren Aronofsky vividly brings this aspect of the game to life through his main character.

While there was a great deal of realism in the film, I kept looking for more, for something that I had no previous knowledge. But the film went through the predictable motions of any

wrestling match. Rourke's acting supposedly brought this movie to an award-winning plateau, but I found the dialogue to be rather bland, with no memorable lines that would qualify as part of today's lingo.

The storyline dealt with the Rourke character spurned by his estranged daughter and rejected by a prospective girlfriend played by Marisa Tomei, who portrays a stripper who may have taken her clothes off one time too many. Like the Ram, she appears to be at a crossroad in her life.

Adding to Randy the Ram's ill fortune is the fact that he recently suffered a heart attack that is preventing him from re-entering the ring. But finally he agrees to a match with the Ayatollah. It is an anniversary rematch, the pair having met 20 years prior in Madison Square Garden for the championship. The Ram has been advised by a doctor to give up wrestling, which is almost a foreshadowing of things to come.

There are not many light moments in this movie except for Rourke's understated discomfort working behind the deli counter of a supermarket and his playful bantering with the customers. But if this is truly Mickey Rourke's comeback film, it is safe to conclude that his acting career is back on track.

I enjoyed the movie because it is not often that Hollywood uses professional wrestling as a theme in mainstream filmmaking. It is an honest portrayal of the wrestling business and perhaps an acknowledgement that the game is a legitimate entertainment alternative.

While there is much wrong with the movie-making business today, I am satisfied that Holly-wood got it right with this picture.

The movie was enjoyable from the opening bell.