Blu-ray Review: THE WRESTLER

Fox Home Entertainment
Release date: April 21, 2009
MSRP: $39.99

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Stars: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachael Wood
Writer: Robert D. Siegel

I grew up watching wrestling. I stopped in the mid 80s, but rediscovered it in the mid 90s when guys like Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit came along. As an adult watching it, I became all too aware of the impact it had on the bodies of the performers.

Reading stories of steroids, painkillers and sleeping pills gave this fantasy world a harsh does of reality. In the last 15 years, dozens of wrestlers and former wrestlers have passed away. Of the three I just mentioned, two are deceased.

When The Wrestler came out, I was a little skeptical of it. I had no doubt it would show the brutal toll, but was afraid that that would be all it showed, that we would get a dark, depressing film that made us want to hide under the covers for several days.

I am happy to say I was wrong. The Wrestler is depressing at times, but it also shows the humanity of the performers.

Many have been calling this Mickey Rourke’s comeback, but anyone that saw Sin City knows it was the role of Marv that really got Rourke back on track. There are certain similarities between Marv and The Ram. Both want love, yet question whether or not they are worthy of it.

Rourke plays Randy The Ram Robinson, a broken down wrestler that it getting by doing shows at bingo halls, school gyms and community centers. His glory days are past him and he simply strives to get by, though still taking some pride in what he does.

Rourke has garnered massive amounts of praise, all of it justified, but Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachael Wood both deserves kudos for very compelling performances as well. Tomei plays Cassidy, a dancer at the local strip club. Randy wants a relationship, but Cassidy resists. Wood plays his daughter, who is less than thrilled to see her father.

At the end of the day, Randy simply wants to connect with those around him. That is something that is easier said than done.

But my comments are mixed for director Darren Aronofsky. He does an excellent job incorporating the world of wrestling as a backdrop for this story but, at times, The Wrestler is overdone. Sometimes less is more.

Video: The Wrestler is presented in 1080p with a ratio of 2.35:1. It is hard to judge the quality of the picture since it was shot to have a sort of documentary look. There is grain, but I think it is actually intentional. So all I can really say is that there is nothing here that detracts from the viewing experience.

Audio:
We get a DTS-HD lossless track in 5.1 surround. Most of The Wrestler is dialogue driven, but the scenes with wrestling matches stand out. Armed with vocal audiences and some vintage (and not so vintage) eighties metal, we get some audio gymnastics. In addition to English, there is also a Spanish 5.1 track. Subtitles are provided in English, French and Spanish..

Extras:
Within the Ring runs 43 minutes and gives us a look behind the making of the film with raw footage as well as comments from Evan Rachael Wood as well as various members of the crew. I found this a little more interesting than most of these m making of featuettes if only because of the rough look and feel of the film as well as the fact that Aronofsky is a rather…eccentric director.

The second featurette has wrestlers Greg Valentine, Lex Luger (calling him a wrestler is a bit of a stretch), Roddy Piper, Diamond Dallas Page and Brutus Beefcake (see my commnet about Luger) in a roundtable. It is marketed as them sharing their secrets, but it really is a discussion about the film and what aspects of the biz it got correct. I found this utterly fascinating, hearing it talked about so bluntly.

Finally we get a music video of Bruce Springsteen’s The Wrestler. A pretty good tune that was completely screed over by the Oscars. It did not even get nominated. Pure stupidity.

You hardly have to like wrestling to enjoy this film. You don’t even have to know wrestling, you simply have to have a heart.

Order The Wrestler Blu-ray.

Jeremy Lynch
For more reviews from myself, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.