BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE WRESTLER

By • May 2nd, 2009 •

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This is a particularly interesting film to evaluate from a BluRay perspective. Director Aronofsky made the stylistic decision to have the film look degraded, grainy, hand-held, digital, like a documentary, like the footage one associates with the wrestling world. Does that kind of look call for BluRay treatment? Would BluRay further degrade what it’s given rather than improve it? Will the grain stand out like basketballs? Will it change the director’s vision?

First things first: Mickey Rourke. Though he’d already staged his come back – witness SIN CITY, reviewed recently on our pages, in which his pristine performance was beyond Noir, rather out of the rarified sub-genre of Lunatic Noir, placing him in the company of such flix as Robert Aldrich’s KISS ME DEADLY, or Peter Medak’s ROMEO IS BLEEDING. But hey, he’s certainly entitled to even more glory, and the distributor of THE WRESTLER took his performance and thrust it up front in the promotional approach to the movie. It’s a good film, but he’s better than the film. He’s what will allow it to persist in our memories.

Bearing similarities to REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT and other motion pictures about star sports figures ill-equipped to deal with the passage of time, the narrative follows a downward arc in the life of Randy “the Ram” Robinson, a pro wrestling icon from the late 80s whose glow in the universe is fast dimming. The respect given wrestlers by one another is a strong and unique angle, as is Rourke’s forward movement in the face of age, physical wear, financial woes, familial failure, and a surprise heart attack. Outside of the sincere and fascinating attention paid to detail, there’s nothing rivetingly new about the story, and so even more emphasis is placed on Rourke’s remarkably ego-free performance. Most of his early work was ruined by self-consciousness. I nearly wretched at seeing him disassemble BARFLY with his egomaniacal posturing, and soon tired of watching his work. But time has mellowed the tyrannical ego in him, and at the screening I attended of the film, he was there, tall and thin and laid back, shaking hands with audience members, radiating accessibility and humility.

Elsewhere in filmsinreview.com, Franco Frassetti analyzed THE WRESTLER in the context of the world it depicts – and we received an enormous amount of reader mail about that piece. Franco is preparing a feature doc on the life and career of Bruno Sammartino, the greatest figure from wrestling’s Golden Age, and you should visit his article to glean more factual info about the realities of the sport.

The BluRay vs. the DVD? The good news is that the BR does not heighten the grain noticeably, and it does darken the blacks and other colors while still retaining the gritty look. As to sharpness, there’s a very slight improvement. One chapter begins with bottles of drugs spread out for Randy to purchase. The DVD doesn’t make their names sharp enough to read. The BluRay does…almost. Both versions look fine, with a surprising 2.35 aspect ratio for a modestly budgeted production. And the sound is more profoundly improved than the image. Whatever was imbedded in the track elements is heightened and given more punch on the BluRay.

Aronofsky appears in one of the supplements, along with his producer, discussing how the film was made. And Bruce Springsteen is there in a music video written for the film.

Judy Chin, formerly a Vietnamese Vampire in STREET TRASH, does a helluva job with the film’s makeup.

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