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Thursday, 22 January 2009

I thought many times watching The Wrestler: "This is me." Not once but many times. And for once the blurb on the film trailer is true: Mickey Rourke is perfect in this role. The clapped out, triple by-pass pain junkie who never got past the sound of the crowd, like a fisherman never gets past the sound of the surf.

Marisa Tomei is ideal as the ageing pole dancer who scouts around the dark room looking for a man who'll pay for a lap dance. It's a believable proposition. Her small breasts are not saggy and her ass is not too big. At least for me, although the garish tattoos wrapped across her hip and shoulder don't do it for me.

A high point is reached when Rourke's off to another gig, tootling his wheel and clapping to the hard rock on the car stereo with a petrol refinery outlined in the distance behind the iron struts of the bridge he's crossing. It could be any city. It's definitely a big city.

The smog turns the sunset red and orange, colours that glow as they sillouhette the effluent stacks and the snaggles of pipes that hum, but only when you get up close.

This is a post-Tarantino movie. It's soft as ice in a cold drink at the end of a hard week. But it's got the fluorescent, long-haired gleam of heavy metal posters and day-glo suburban accessories. Tomei's crocheted cap is eloquent when she meets Randy 'The Ram' outside a secondhand fashion shop on a strip mall in a nondescript zone of the city.

She doesn't have her thong on and Randy is just out looking for a present to give to his daughter, a vampire-loving lesbian who lives at no. 29 High Street, Anycity. The snow is part of the landscape. Randy's gift gets him one lunch but when he fails to turn up for a dinner date, she throws him out. The Bold and the Beautiful meets Pulp Fiction.

When Randy takes to the ring, everything fits perfectly into place. Funny how the male spectacle is so 'out there' that you need sunglasses to watch, while the female spectacle plays out in almost total darkness. No guy wants to see the other guy sitting next to him on an identical stool. But in the ring, well, you've got all flavours.

Randy's final match is a 20-year rematch against The Ayatollah. We're back in 1991. A black man with a short beard, his opponent waves an Iranian flag about as he hefts his paunch across from one side of the enclosure to the other. Randy's got green tights on, a scar like an eight-inch worm down the middle of his chest, and tinted hair (he's naturally brunette).

Another highlight is Randy on the deli counter in the local supermarket. It's a role he takes to easily, being naturally gregarious. But when a fan spots him, he freaks out. What with the daughter shutting his fatherhood gig down and a six-foot berk in a baseball cap picking his true ID, Randy throws in the hairnet and takes to the road.

There's something calm and welcoming about this low-rent flic. It's got a dreamy timbre and Rourke's delapidated smile blends into the role cleanly. When I left the cinema I sort of mooched along the street taking in the flashing lights and the lonely truth that breaks out when you see a car's headlights shining on the bumper of the car in front.

We're all in this together. That's why this film gets five stars from me.

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