Mickey Rourke earns a host of new admirers with his portrayal of Randy 'The Ram' Robinson: a has-been wrestler battling with age. Can Darren Aronofsky's strange little sports flick finally redeem Rourke's career? Odds are good.
- A film such as this was always going to sink or swim according to the central performance. In this case that performance is flawless. The character is genuine, believable and sympathetic.
- While 'The Ram' has our sympathies, he's far from a typical Hollywood lead role, and has quite a few moments of assholery. This is a pro because, lets face it, we want our screenwriters to put in a little effort. Rounded, nuanced characters are good. Let's move on.
- Aronofsky characteristically pulls no punches (sorry), with several sequences containing the kind of brutal realism that made Requiem for a Dream such hard watching. This works, because when Rourke gets hurt (and he does)- you feel it.
- The violence is executed impeccably. At points I was convinced that Mickey Rourke really was extracting massive staples from his flesh. Ouch.
- Marisa Tomei's love interest is equally unconventional, and believable. She'll probably go unnoticed because of Rourke's towering performance, but credit where credit's due.
- The score (composed by Clint Mansell, performed by Slash) is understated and hugely effective. And the closing credits roll to a Springsteen song composed specifically for this movie. And the film is responsible for a rare occasion of Axl Rose not being a dick- he donated the use of Sweet Child of Mine for free, due to the movie's small budget. Kudos.
- Gotta love brave endings.
- The film contains one particular tracking shot which draws a comparison between Robinson's two worlds. I won't ruin it for you, just tell you that this shot in itself is a masterpiece.
- As is the case with many of Aronofsky's movies, it's a tad depressing (though nowhere near as bad as Requiem for a Dream, thank christ).
- Watching this movie may result in an undesirable (although temporary) obsession with the world of professional wrestling.
All in all this is a fantastic character study, perfectly executed. Expect awards heading Rourke's way... or at least some more acting gigs.