The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: The Wrestler

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“The Wrestler”
Rated R

Once a pro-wrestling god, Randy the Ram (Mickey Rourke) now grapples in school gyms, minimizing pain while bleeding for audiences numb to vintage spandex-and-oil simplicity.

The obligation of a good show is the least Randy can shoulder for fans following him past his prime. But Randy’s physique has calcified into a repository for steroids, UV rays and hair dye, and crossed-out phone numbers on his estranged daughter’s (Evan Rachel Wood) photo remind him of so many wasted chances.

There’s little glamorous in repetitively tilting at windmills — Darren Aronofsky’s tragic motif. After tracking insurmountable monoliths of science, addiction and artistic creativity, Aronofsky turned to universal inevitabilities like advancing age and brutal pain in “The Wrestler.” (To “Black Swan,” “The Wrestler’s” feminine counterpart, Aronofsky added madness.)

It’s “Requiem for a Heavyweight’s” athletic twilight cross-trained with Willy Loman’s quest for greatness. Appropriately, Aronofsky trimmed stylistic flourishes to brilliantly focus on smaller stories of those on society’s periphery, in finite occupations.

Low-hanging ceiling tiles in a cramped venue absorb sound and Randy’s majesty, and Marisa Tomei shines as a stripper approaching a sell-by date for base pleasures. Screenwriter (and Onion maven) Robert Siegel also turned his observant eye on hardship, not hilarity.

No stranger to limited-term resurrections himself, Rourke delivered relentless, fruitless, optimism. There was no character to root for more strongly in spite of himself in 2008, and “The Wrestler” spat and bled Randy’s physical poetry — an elegy of emasculation and exhaustion building, in its final shot, to all the exhilaration he needed.

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18 Responses to “Heroes of the Zeroes: The Wrestler”

  1. JP says:

    This was one of the better movies I have seen in a long long time. Amazing job by Mickey in this movie.

  2. Latrice Alexander says:

    Wonderful actors with a strong story line will always be a great film. Enjoyed it!

  3. […] cap, gray sweat suit and craggy face, Donny reminded me of Mickey Rourke’s character from “The Wrestler.” Except Donny is far from washed up and is proud of bringing the day’s news to his community. […]

  4. Beth Hoban says:

    I have to say not a big Mickey Rourke fan, but I loved this film. I missed it when it was at the movie, but saw it on dvd and it was great. I agree one of the best.

  5. I grew up with Mickey Rourke and let me tell you was not too fond of him at the time. But now he is back and I absolutely loved this movie. Not only did I find out that he can act, but this movie has a very intense plot that unless you listen you might miss.

  6. chad cowgill says:

    This movie was seriously depressing, and the character was practically committing suicide in the end. I found it hard to root for the guy because he made mistakes, although I guess it can be considered part of his nature. But the story was good and it was emotionally gripping, so I give it props for that.

  7. Joe Shearer says:

    Great point, Chad. The documentary "Beyond the Mat" is an excellent accompanyment to "The Wrestler."

  8. Chad Miller says:

    This movie was terrific. It hits especially close to those fans of wrestling that keep seeing stories of past stars on alcohol and drugs as well as those holding on to the past success.

  9. michelle hahn says:

    I actually liked this movie. I watched it over a weeks span while working putt at the gym. I actually caught different parts of it each day. I liked the fighter way better though :-)

  10. Andrea says:

    I watched the movie inadvertantly with my husband and I have to say that the acting was incredible. What Mickey Rourke was able to do with that character in a lot of ways truly reminded me of his own life. I can’t say that I thoroughly enjoyed the story line because in all honesty wrestling just isn’t my thing, but as a movie lover I can appreciate the dramatic effect that this movie was going for and oh my gosh there were plenty of moments when I cringed hoping it was a stunt double.

  11. monicakalagian says:

    Mickey Rourke definatley made a comeback with this well acted movie!

  12. […] “The Wrestler” – “The Wrestler” trailer […]

  13. […] Aronofsky understands that, at some level, ballet is dignified erotica. He also knows how, as in “The Wrestler,” the profession pushes extremities to extremes — unholy adjustments and atypically wicked body […]

  14. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nick Rogers, The Film Yap. The Film Yap said: I'm still here. I'm the Ram. #bestfilmsofthedecade #heroesofthezeroes […]

  15. Nick Rogers says:

    Dan: I hear you. Arguably, the only Aronofsky film in which the protagonist "wins" is "The Fountain," but that’s only because he comes to full terms of grief over a huge personal loss and completes a task his departed has demanded he finish. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Sam: Key word, "virtually." There’s no question of the finality of "Black Swan." That little shred of optimism left at the end of "The Wrestler" suggests that maybe, just maybe, Randy arose from that glorious Ram Jam, too.

  16. […] his “Heroes of the Zeroes” piece of Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler,” Nick Rogers called “Black Swan” the “feminine version” of […]

  17. Sam Watermeier says:

    "Black Swan" is surprisingly similar to "The Wrestler." They are both about characters who thrive only in artificial worlds (in Randy the Ram’s case, it was the inside of a wrestling ring. In Portman’s case, it’s the setting of "Swan Lake.") And the last shots of both films are virtually identical.

  18. Dan says:

    So many of Aronofsky’s films destroy me because I am rooting for a person that I know simply cannot win. And not in a "there’s no way Rudy can make the Notre Dame football team….wait a minute" kind of way