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Thursday, January 7, 2010

THE WRESTLER (2008)

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.

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