Though he now calls himself an "old, beaten-up piece of meat," Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Rourke) was once a top-dollar pro wrestler, who still sports the spirit and panache that made him great.
The problem is that his body is worn out. A doctor tells him that after a particularly brutal match involving steroids, broken glass and a staple gun, which ends with him having a heart attack and bipass surgery.
With a major re-match on the horizon, Randy takes his doctor's advice and retires. He tries to reconcile with his bitter, estranged daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), and to develop more of relationship than a lap-dance with aging, yet sweet stripper Cassidy (Marisa Tomei, who also puts her heart, soul and body into the role). As is "Rocky" for Sylvester Stallone, "The Wrestler" is a career turning point for Rourke, who brings his own down-andout life experience to the part. (He's been an out of work actor for 10 years). While "Rocky" has a touch of a Walt Disney family-fare fable, "The Wrestler" is the real thing in its unflinching look at the seedy, human side of a not-as-phony-as-believed sport. We see that backstage camaraderie between the wrestlers who, on stage, appear to fight to the death for their beloved blood-thirsty audience.
Director Darren Aronofsky holds back on unveiling the actual star of the movie: Rourke's weathered Quasimodo face, a far cry from his pretty-boy days of 1982's "Diner." When it is shown, we know that the scar-tissue is real (Rourke was a professional boxer) along with the pain beneath it. At 44, Tomei also reveals the naked truth about a profession where physicality is all important. Together, the two actors do a tough, but tender dance. Get onboard to experience Rourke in a well-deserved comeback. There's nothing phony about this "Wrestler."