The Wrestler

DVD Rating: ***1/2

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Read Amber Wilkinson's film review of The Wrestler
The Wrestler

Substituting for the usual audio commentary is an unusually good 45-minute making-of featurette Within The Ring, in which we learn from most of the major cast and crew (with the mysterious exception of Marisa Tomei) about director Darren Aronofsky's "proactive documentary style", and the realities of the wrestling circuit.

Aronofsky refused to storyboard the film and was always "open to what happened in the moment". He shot in 37 different locations over 37 days, mixing actors with 'real people', even filming Mickey Rourke's staged bouts at genuine wrestling tournaments (with actual wrestlers playing his opponents). Aronofsky himself had to fight (and also to sacrifice potential budget) for Rourke's presence in the cast, but there are also plenty of (guarded) allusions here to the difficulties of working with Rourke on set. "We've all", as Aronosfksy puts it on the last day of production, "learned to love Mickey Rourke" – and one is left with the impression, if no more, that it was a very tough lesson, no matter how well it paid off.

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More insights come from a 15-minute interview with Rourke himself, who half-jokes at the outset that he took on the role merely because he was broke, and then admits that he was at first "disappointed" with the script ("I didn't buy a lot of the dialogue"), until it became clear that Aronosfsky was happy for Rourke to "make this personal" and adapt the film's lines to his own life experiences. Accordingly his character's relationship with daughter Stefanie was drawn from his own relationship with his (ex-)wife, and the scenes involving "the taboo subject of steroids" were based on his observations in boxing gyms.

We learn that Rourke had to put on "28 pounds of muscle, not fat", for the film, and was trained by a "brutal Israeli commando" who refused to respect Rourke's existing routine of late-night partying. Rourke is also candid about his 14 years in the wilderness before the success of The Wrestler, and is only too ready to take all the blame himself. "I'm the one that burnt all the bridges," he says – although in a way it is just as well he did, since the reality of his self-destructive decline is a large part of what makes The Wrestler so compellingly believable.

Reviewed on: 01 Jun 2009
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The Wrestler packshot
An ageing wrestler tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter, but can he get the ring out of his soul? Plus read what Aronofsky, Rourke and Tomei said about .
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Product Code: OPTD1554

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.35:1

Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5. 1

Extras: Within The Ring featurette, Mickey Rourke interview, theatrical trailer

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