The Wrestler (2008)

“The Wrestler” is one of those movies where everything seems to come together just perfectly, like it was written in the stars. Mickey Rourke was born to play Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, an aging wrestler whose commercial peak is decades behind him: There are obvious parallels to be made with Rourke himself, which accentuates the power of the narrative instead of distracting from it, adding layers of believability to its heartbreaking, powerful redemption story. Director Darren Aronofsky has never read a devastating character study he couldn’t make darker and more punishing (like “Requiem for a Dream” and “mother!”), and his instincts for dramatic flagellation are on full display here: I was sometimes reminded of Lars von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark” and “Breaking the Waves,” in that there are no depths too dark to plunder for an emotionally shredding cinematic experience, and nowhere is that more apparent than a grisly, gruesome mid-movie wrestling match that highlights the toll of extreme wrestling on the human body and psyche. In addition to Rourke’s exceptional performance, there’s outstanding support by a never-better Marisa Tomei and a fiercely believable Evan Rachel Wood as his estranged daughter. So again, it’s one of those movies where everything comes together and the final result is one of the best movies of the decade, featuring one of its best performances too.

Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)

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