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Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a 1980s-era pro wrestler, has become a burnt-out shell of his former self. After he has a heart attack during a small-time match, a doctor tells him he could die if he fights again. In an effort to build a new life, Robinson takes a job at a deli, moves in with an aging stripper and tries to build a relationship with her son. But the prospect of a rematch with his old nemesis, the Ayatollah, proves too tempting to resist, even if it means risking his life.
For more about The Wrestler and the The Wrestler Blu-ray release, see the The Wrestler Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 20, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Mark Margolis, Todd Barry, Judah Friedlander
Director: Darren Aronofsky
» See full cast & crew
The Wrestler Blu-ray Review
Is 'The Wrestler' the King of the Ring on Blu-ray?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 20, 2009
I'm an old broken down piece of meat, and I'm alone. And I deserve to be all alone. I just don't want you to hate me.
A story of anything but wrestling, The Wrestler is the tale of a man in search of himself outside the ring. Worn and gritty, tough and ugly, but honest and emotional describes both the character and the film, each bearing the burden of the reality behind the mayhem where heartache, depression, and the search for meaning, stability, compassion, and love prove more difficult and take a greater toll on a man's soul than does an elbow to the face or a chair to the back of the head harm his body. Told with unflinching sincerity and marked by no lack of raw emotion, powerful performances, steady direction, and plenty of meaning, it's no surprise that The Wrestler is one of 2008's most talked-about and admired films, and for all the right reasons. The Wrestler represents raw, powerful, yet poignant filmmaking at its peak, taking its audience on a journey of self-discovery where physical and emotional pain, shame, and heartache come full circle to a realization about what matters most in one man's life.
Randy "Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke, Domino) was once Professional Wrestling's hottest star. Now 20 years past his prime, Ram finds himself beaten and worn, but still wrestling to small crowds to fulfill an inner desire to stay in the ring and also to pay the rent for his trailer home. Hoping to re-capture his glory years, Ram accepts an invitation to once again wrestle The Ayatollah, his opponent in the most memorable match of his once-storied career. When a heart attack seems to permanently sideline Ram before the match, he must choose to turn his attention away from wrestling and satisfy his deeper and more emotionally-charged cravings for family and to atone for the mistakes of his past, or to press onward and wrestle, the one thing that seems to make him happy in life, no matter the pain and humiliation the inner struggle to find his real place in the world brings him.
The Wrestler, shot documentary-style, feels more genuine that most movies, capturing both the glory and pain of everyday life. Still, heartache is the theme of the film, and both the emotional and physical toll Ram's life takes on his heart marks the core of the story, the man, and the journey for meaning. Ram is portrayed as a man who is but a shell of his former self; his past glories are all but a memory, and the audience is only able to imagine the character in the prime of his career, a carefree and incredibly larger-than-life hero who thought he had it all in the spotlight of fame. While his body has slowed, his heart remains steady and eager for more, but with age Ram has come to search for what will make him whole, something outside the ring and something more personal, more gentle, and more real than the strenuous and difficult world of wrestling. Ram has found that life in the ring requires mental toughness and takes a physical toll, but at the end of the day, the contest is fake, where staged maneuvers and pre-planned outcomes remove the semblance of reality from the competition. While Ram's life as a wrestler may have meaning, it has no significance and no basis in reality save for the physical pain of the competition. As he searches for a return not only to past glories but to remedy the mistakes of his life, he must deal with the realities of the present, including an aging and wearing body that gives out on him, literally breaking his heart under the stress of years of hard service, a fracture that may cost him the very thing he loves most. Ram comes to find that pain exists outside of the ring, too, that both the pre-rehearsed world of wrestling and the unscripted pitfalls of life both lead to the same fate.
What makes The Wrestler work so incredibly well is the film's genuine approach and honest performances. Though the film is poignant, it makes for an emotionally satisfying journey. No matter how it ends, Ram's search for his place in the world is noble and true; he's depicted as a good man, not without flaws, but with a gentle soul that seems out-of-place, covered by a bruised and broken body that gives and receives pain for pay and for the enjoyment of others. His search for companionship leads him to an exotic dancer named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead) who, like Ram, has sacrificed her body for pay and the pleasure of others, and they find in one another solace in their similarities. Nevertheless, they each must come to a decision about their destinies, if their place in the world is to be with one another or to continue wallowing in that which has worn them emotionally and degraded them physically. Mickey Rourke indeed delivers one of the great performances, that of a man broken inside and out. He brings a sincerity to the role rarely seen in cinema; behind the flowing blonde hair, tattoos, and physique lies a grieving and confused man who believes he "deserves to be alone" and must decide if a state of mental solitude where only wrestling matters is the life for him, or if both he and the world can prove that love and relationships do indeed exist and flourish outside his mind. Like the screenplay, Rourke plays the role with no frills and plenty of honesty and sincerity, bringing genuine emotions and humanity to the role. Finally, Darren Aronofsky's (The Fountain) direction matches the waywardness of the main character, employing both a gritty and free-flowing, handheld approach that further creates a wavering, unsteady, slightly confused yet very real feeling to the proceedings.
The Wrestler Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Wreslter debuts on Blu-ray with an impressive 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer. The film features a gritty, grainy presentation, and intentionally so. Despite its less-than-pristine appearance, the transfer is generally exceptional in the context of the film's intended visual presentation. Colors are wonderfully reproduced -- blood looks like a solid shade of red, the colors on the many wrestling tights and other clothing is stable, and background colors -- those seen on walls, inside the ring, and on other objects such as products on the shelf of a pharmacy -- offer steady, solid coloring. Detail, too, is exceptional. Whether every strand of blonde hair on Ram's head, the textures on objects such as worn street signs and pavement, or even the small staples that become embedded in the skin during a particularly brutal match, all stand out nicely and realistically, even against the grainy overlay. Flesh tones do veer towards a red tint, but blacks are dark and inky. Overall, The Wrestler looks fantastic on Blu-ray, serving as yet another disc that isn't clean and clear but recreates the director-intended look of the film very well, making it a first-class presentation.
The Wrestler Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Wrestler hits hard on Blu-ray with an impressive DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The track demonstrates its sonic superiority from the get-go, with its presentation of a pulse-pounding, hard-hitting Quiet Riot song that spills out of every speaker, accompanied by plenty of hard-hitting, pulsating bass. Sound placement is excellent, with discrete effects emanating all around the soundstage -- crowd noise engulfs the area while play-by-play commentary clips are heard here and there across the front. Each wrestling scene is appropriately raucous, making fine use of all the speakers in the track's arsenal to practically place the listener in the midst of the roaring crowd. Still, it is the film's more contemplative and quieter moments - - those that find Ram alone, in the dark, remembering his life and struggling to find himself -- that really makes the track shine. The track does well to create seamless environmental ambience, those of nature or the sounds of the grocery storage room where Ram works as forklifts beep and roll by and humming refrigeration units bring such scenes to life. The film's several scenes inside a club feature yet more impressive atmospherics; music pours through every speaker, but is low enough in volume to hear dialogue crisply and precisely, but not too low so as to ruin the atmosphere. Dialogue in the film's many calmer scenes, too, is reproduced cleanly and effectively. The Wrestler makes for another strong lossless soundtrack from Fox.
The Wrestler Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Wrestler limps onto Blu-ray with only a few bonus features. Within the Ring (480p, 42:43) is a solid making-of piece that features an interesting look at the history of the production, including its origins, the shooting schedule and locations, the performances of the cast, creating the wrestling sequences, the film's music, and more. This piece delves a bit deeper than more standard making-of pieces and is well worth a watch for its fascinating insight into the world of moviemaking. Wrestler Round Table (480p, 25:23) features Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, Lex Luger, "Diamond" Dallas Page, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (star of They Live), and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine discussing wrestling, acting, the style and themes of The Wrestler, and more, moderated by Damon Andrews. Also included is 'The Wrestler' Music Video -- Written and Performed by Bruce Springsteen (480p, 3:59). Finally, disc two of this set features a digital copy of the film. Played back on a second generation iPod Touch, the video transfer shows strong colors and detail but sees an enormous amount of blocking, particularly in the darker backgrounds. Meanwhile, the audio presentation is somewhat more bland than expected. The film's louder and more engaging sequences pack little wallop, even considering the small two-channel presentation. Dialogue, however, is presented without any discernible hiccups.
The Wrestler Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
All together, The Wrestler is a special slice of cinema that is one of the best movies of the decade. Few other films capture physical pain, emotional distress, and raw emotion quite like The Wrestler. Unjustifiably snubbed for a Best Picture Oscar nomination, the Academy did recognize Rourke's outstanding performance with a Best Actor nomination, as they did with co-star Marisa Tomei, herself nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Although the picture failed to walk away with any statues, The Wrestler nevertheless represents one of cinema's great character studies that should continue to fascinate for years to come. 20th Century Fox has once again released a quality Blu-ray disc, though this one is disappointingly short on bonus materials. However, the studio has provided their usual stellar video and audio presentation that only heighten the impact of the film. Despite the lack of extra content, The Wrestler on Blu-ray comes highly recommended.
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• Today on Blu-ray - April 21 - April 21, 2009
Out on Blu-ray today are two films which - at very least - had a part in the beginning to two current Hollywood trends that either have you begging for more, or pleating to stop. 'X-Men' - released today individually or as part of the 'X-Men Trilogy' - is, arguably, ...
• The Wrestler Blu-ray Gets Detailed - March 5, 2009
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'The Wrestler', which is due to hit store shelves on April 21st. Video will be presented in 2.35:1 1080p AVC accompanied by a 5.1 DTS-HD ...
• Fox Reveals Three More for April - March 4, 2009
In an early announcement to retailers, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has revealed that they will bring the 'The Wrestler' and 'Notorious' to Blu-ray on April 21st, followed a week later by 'Bride Wars'; all three will be day-and-date with the DVD release. ...
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