Rourke plays once great wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson. Years have passes since his heyday, but The Ram keeps plugging away at the only thing he’s ever been good at. He has lost some of his hearing and his body has nearly been crushed by the pounding it has taken. He is forced to augment what little he makes in the ring with a nothing job at WalMart like establishment, dealing with a boss that belittles his other career. Drugs and alcohol have become routine, and Randy spends most of his spare time in a strip club looking at Marisa Tomei. But it is hard not to cheer for this guy.
Much of the story centers on Randy trying to reconnect with his daughter, played ably by Evan Rachel Wood. While there are moments that get sweet and may look to be cliché, the whole tale is painful, raw and honest. The sadness here is real.
While the “sport” of pro wrestling here an act, it is one that demands greatly physicality and athleticism on the part of the participants. I was really impressed by not only the fight scenes themselves, but the conversations and planning sessions between wrestlers. Much of the film was shot in a documentary style, which provided the viewer a chance to feel emotions honestly, not in some cheap, contrived way. The movie may move a little slowly for some, but the payoff is great.
I suspect some wrestling fans will not like this film, and that those who do not like wrestling will shy away from it. But wrestling here is not merely a metaphor for how one deals with life, but also for how one accepts and shapes reality. The Wrestler is a good, rich movie, period.