The title tells you all you need to know in this Mickey Rourke comeback vehicle from chastened helmer Darren Aronofsky, who’s traded in his flashy technique for Super-16mm none-too-steady cams. Rourke, that real-life faded movie star, plays a fast fading pro-wrestler whose damaged heart is forcing him to retire. A friendly stripper (Marisa Tomei) and an estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) offer glances at a new life, as does a memorably brief stint at a deli counter*, but he winds up back in the ring for one last match. Fortunately, in the midst of this tour de force of bludgeoning masochism, Rourke gets a few shots at summoning his old, oddly charming mix of delicacy & brutishness. (It’s what Sylvester Stallone thinks he’s doing in those endless ROCKY sequels.) But gosh, this is awfully tired dramatic territory. And not just in antiques like THE CHAMP/’31. Jeff Bridges, who played the Kid to Stacy Keach’s fading boxer in John Huston’s FAT CITY/’72, is now in a musical variant on the theme in CRAZY HEART/’09. And no doubt, dozens more are in the pipeline to join the hundreds that have gone before.
*If only the filmmakers had let his surprise success at the job continue instead of opting for the expected blow-up.