Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Return of the Rourke

Remember Marv from "Sin City"? Ugly, tough, scarred? The essential bad-ass? Well, that same actor, one Mickey Rourke, was once the James McAvoy/Ryan Gosling of the early 80s; a good-looking acting dynamo who garnered critical comparisons to a young De Niro after films like "Diner," "Barfly," and "Rumble Fish." Flash forward 25 years later and Rourke is something less than a shell of his former self. The actor is now washed-up, flesh-out, and objectively unattractive. He also just gave the best performance of his career and is currently the frontrunner for a Best Actor Oscar next year. The film is "The Wrestler," directed by Darren Aronofsky, who has gained cult and critical acclaim for such stylistic indies as "Pi" and "Requeim For a Dream." This new film marks a new direction for Aronofsky, keeping the camerawork simple, the cinematography grainy, and the on-screen emotion generally reserved. Rourke plays Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a professional wrestler who is washed-up 20 years after being regarded as the best in the business (sound familiar?). And, not surprisingly, Rourke embodies Randy disturbingly well, exercising the man's angels and demons with a potent accuracy. Screenwriter Robert B. Siegel offers up a rather traditional screenplay, closely following Syd Field's three-act structure until the climax. This works for the film, which is filmed patientially by Aronofsky, using several long shots and a few long, dialogue driven scenes to fully examine its protagonist. While some may be turned off by the violence inside the wrestling ring (fake or not, it looks as though these guys take a beating), squint through it and fall in love with a character no one seems to love.

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