As a movie, and ultimately that's how it should be judged, it is a brilliant film, well written, well directed, perfectly detailed and brilliantly performed, particularly by Mickey Rourke. In fact, if Rourke does not win the Oscar for Best Actor, everyone in the wrestling community should serve up a beating to the Academy voters.
The parallells between Rourke's Randy "The Ram" Robinson's character and Cassidy, the stripper he is attracted to, are interesting and compelling. Both are "workers" in different ways. And while Randy copes better with the love he gets from wrestling and being Randy The Ram, Cassidy walks the fine line of peforming to seek the approval of her audience, while looking to retreat to the "real world" outside the strip club.
Both professions have a profound effect on their participants. And while I could give you a dissertation on how and why, I will spare you the psycho-babble and leave it by saying that there is real truth in that aspect of the movie.
Mickey Rourke truly becomes "one of the boys." It is a performance that simply surpasses brilliant. He is everything that underside of 80's pro wrestling is about. It is no wonder that Roddy Piper cried after seeing the film. I saw a lot of old friends in that performance myself who are no longer here to share this with.
"The Wrestler" is an absolute must-see movie and a brilliant piece of film making.
That said, my reaction as a wrestling promoter was a bit different.
There is a great big bundle of truth in much of what "The Wrestler" portrays as the world of independent wrestling. As someone who tries hard to elevate the independent wrestling promotion to the level of being a family-friendly, mainstream acceptable endeavor, I cringed at the thought that people might think all independent wrestling is like this.
I questioned the inclusion of certain things in the movie. For instance, and Mick Foley pointed this out as well, you would never see someone openly peddling drugs in a locker room. Outside, maybe. In a car, maybe. But in the locker room, where everyone is around and eyes and ears pry? Never.
I also found fault with the hardcore stuff. If you've been around wrestling long enough, especially 80's veterans, the vast majority want to do less in a match and not more. It would have been more realistic if Randy had to be talked into the match, maybe demanding more pay, then suffering the heart attack as a consequence.
I can forgive those things as plot devices and chalk them up to dramatic license. But geez, I watched and said to myself, this isn't going to make our jobs promoting wrestling any easier. I can understand why Vince McMahon hated it for that reason.
It almost made me want to do a movie called 'The Promoter."
Myself, Matt West and Kellan Thomas all of NECW were listed in the credits of the movie, along with many others in the wrestling community that helped the producers with the film. My good friend, Evan Ginzburg has been involved with this project for 6 years and to see him get an Associate Producer credit and to see how well the movie turned out made me feel good for him and everyone else involved.
It is 2009, and I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous New year. 2008 was a tough one for a lot of people, and I am hoping 2009 is a brighter one for all.