Mickey Rourke is most of the most fascinating actors out there to me, because he’s a former pretty boy who went into boxing and had his face beaten up almost beyond recognition. Thus, he was perfectly cast for his role as Randy “The Ram” Robinson in “The Wrestler,” a washed-up guy who in 1989, performed at Madison Square Garden and now, 20 years later, is lucky to play to an audience in a venue the size of your local Elks Lodge. He can barely scrape his rent together and is locked out of his trailer by an annoyed landlord; and yet he spends the money from his latest fight on performance enhancement drugs, a hair bleaching treatment and a tanning session. Some of that money is also tagged for Pam (Marisa Tomei) who plays an aging stripper. You see these two “seasoned” characters continuing to milk jobs that are best suited for younger people, and yet they both cling to their roles, knowing that if they let go, they will fall and there will be no stunt mattress to fall on.
Then the Ram is involved in a bloody match involving barbed wire, metal folding chairs, insect spray and a staple gun, which nearly sends him to the grave. He suffers a heart attack, wakes up in the Intensive Care Unit after bypass surgery, and the doctor gives him the dreaded news. Another match could Slam the Ram for good.
The Ram has a daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) whom he shunned during her entire childhood, when his career was soaring. Now, as he faces his own mortality, he tries to patch up the relationship and it’s looking positive until he goes on a tequila bender and has a one-night stand with a wide-eyed, large-breasted blonde on the same night he had promised his daughter he would take her to dinner.
Out in the “real world” beyond the wrestling arenas, The Ram is just another guy trying to find work to pay the rent and buy an occasional lap dance from Pam whom he loves. But she has crossed the forbidden line between “customer and stripper” and is now confused about what she really wants from The Ram.
You are constantly rooting for The Ram, knowing that a come-back is his only salvation, and yet it could be the end of him. Out there on stage, it’s his “true family” of wrestlers and fans who have sustained him this long. He’s in constant pain, his daughter despises him, the woman he loves is an apparition. He’s a haunted man. And when you treat yourself to seeing this movie, he will haunt you, too.