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PCR #460 (Vol. 10, No. 3) This edition is for the week of January 12--18, 2009.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"The Wrestler"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

theater seats

The Tampa Film Review for January  by Nolan Canova
"The Wrestler"  by Mike Smith
R. I. P. –- Ray Dennis Steckler  by ED Tucker
Nfc/afc Championships Edition .... Gettin' Crazy With The Cheese-whiz In Arizona .... “feel Sorry For Those Giants.” .... Tony’s Coming Back To Tampa! .... Clemens Got Some Splainin’ To Do .... Pacman Jones Needs A Job .... Ravens Defeat Titans ....  by Chris Munger
Gruden Is Toast..where's The Jelly? .... Obama's Party .... Conference Championship Weekend ....  by Matt Drinnenberg
Forget The Ides Of Month - Don't Get Sick In January .... Sports Thoughts (sorry Chris) .... Speaking Of The Hall Of Fame .... Passing On .... Movie Notes .... And One From Television .... It's Oscar Time .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2...  by Mike Smith
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Fox Searchlight     
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hour 56 mins

I’ve never been one for wrestling. Even though Ox Baker (the big bad guy Kurt Russell fights in “Escape From New York”) was a family friend, I think I’ve only attended one match. Growing up in Florida, you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a pro wrestler. Dusty Rhodes. Bob Backlund. Heck, one night Andre the Giant stopped into the restaurant I was working at while in high school for a late night snack. Most of these men slowly faded away, returning only in fan conversations about the days of old. Which brings us to the tale of Randy “The Ram” Robinson.

In the 1980s “the Ram” was the biggest name in wrestling. Tan and muscular, his long blonde hair streaming across his broad shoulders, he would excite fans in every arena with his signature move, the RAM JAM. His last big match was against the Ayatollah, after which he too faded away. Now working at the local grocery store and spending his weekends participating in “all star” matches, Randy (Rourke) is now scarred, sore and hard of hearing. When a promoter stages a rematch of his greatest battle with the Ayatollah, Randy eagerly agrees to sign up for what could be the fight of his life.

Mickey Rourke first gained notice as the helpful arsonist in 1981’s “Body Heat.” After a turn in “Diner” he was designated a star. Of the 10-15 greatest performances of the 1980s, Rourke has given at least two of them (“Year of the Dragon” and “Angel Heart.”) Then, like Randy the Ram, he faded away. Hard living and a career change to boxing slowly wore down his good looks. He would pop up on screen in the occasional flick and then, just like that, disappear. But under his rough image he was learning that sticking with the right people, no matter how crazy it sounds, is a sign of inner growth, one that can be rewarded.

Rourke inhabits the role like an old lion, his mane of golden hair cascading behind him as he prowls the ring. The supporting cast is equally strong, led by two outstanding performances by Tomei and Wood. As Cassidy, Randy’s only true friend and the only ear he can bend when he needs to talk, it would have been very easy for Tomei to fall into the “stripper with a heart of gold” trap. However here she uses her vulnerability to her advantage, allowing herself to work but never getting close to anyone. Wood plays the Rams’ daughter, Stephanie, who has been hurt so many times by her father’s actions that she must make a decision whether or not to allow him to be a part of her life. Both women are taken through the emotional gamut and both of them shine.

But the main story here is Rourke. He always had a knack of letting the audience see into his character’s soul and here he steps back and shares it with everybody in the room. “I only get hurt out there,” Ram tells Cassidy. He only feels safe when he’s grappling among broken glass and razor blades. It’s the world outside of the ring that has scarred Randy, more than any wrestling prop can.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give “The Wrestler”  

This week's movie review of "The Wrestler" is ©2009 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2009, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.