Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Mark Margolis

Hannibal (2001)

Should have just let him eat whoever he wanted to eat.

Ten years after getting away from practically everybody involved with law enforcement, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is enjoying his time, relaxing, looking at fine art, and walking through the breezy, lovely streets of Florence, Italy. Meanwhile, back in the states, Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) is stuck in a bit of a pickle in which a drug-bust went incredibly wrong and violent – leaving the FBI to have to clean up the mess. But because Lecter can’t keep his appetite for Clarice down, he decides to send her a letter, which then leads her to start her own investigation into finding exactly where Lecter is. However, Clarice isn’t the only one. Chief Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) is also on his own search for an art scholar who goes missing, which may lead him to stumbling upon Lecter and having to decide whether he wants to arrest the man, or bring him in for a healthy reward granted by deformed billionaire, Mason Verger (Gary Oldman). The reason for Verger’s reward, is because he is one of Lecter’s last survivors around, and has the face, body, and voice to prove it.



So yeah. The Silence of the Lambs is, was, and will forever be, a great movie. There’s no way of getting around that. And as is usually the case when you’re trying to recreate some of the same magic from a precursor that’s as legendary and iconic as that movie was, the odds are not in your favor.

Such is the case with Hannibal, the sequel to the Silence of the Lambs, that came out nearly ten years later, starred someone new as Clarice, and had a different director.

Granted, Anthony Hopkins is still around and if you’re replacing the likes of Jodie Foster and Jonathan Demme, with Julianne Moore and Ridley Scott, then not everything’s so bad. But honestly, if there was ever a reason for a sequel to not exist, it’s shown here. That is, after the first ten minutes in which some of the creepiest, most disturbing opening-sequences ever created, transpire and bring you right down to the level of knowing what to expect from the rest of the movie.

And the rest of the movie for that matter, is also pretty creepy. Because Scott is such a talented director, he’s able to make almost each and every shot feel as if it came right out of an art exposition itself and add a sense of eeriness, even if we’re literally watching a scene dedicated to two people just sitting around in a darkly-lit room, whispering about something, and not doing much of anything else. There’s a lot of scenes like that in Hannibal, and while it’s hard to really be excited by any of them, Scott tries his hardest to add a little more pizzazz and energy in any way that he can.

But it still doesn’t escape the fact that the movie’s still uneventful.

Sure, people are shot, killed, ripped-open, eaten alive, sliced, diced, and chewed-on, but is any of it really exciting? Not really, and that’s perhaps the movie’s biggest sin. The first flick may have been a dark, serious and chilly thriller, but there was still a bunch of excitement to the madness of tracking down Wild Bill, nabbing him, and taking him; while it took its time, there was still a feeling of tension in the air. That same tension isn’t really anywhere to be found here, even if the same feeling of general creepiness is – though it only comes in short spurts.

Most of this has to do with the fact that, despite there being maybe three-to-four subplots going on, there isn’t anyone that really grabs ahold of you and makes you want to watch it as it unfolds. Once again, Clarice is on the search for Dr. Lecter, but because there’s another story that runs along the same lines going on, it doesn’t actually seem all that important. Sure, she’ll get her arch-nemesis, but at the end of the day, does any of it really matter? The dude’s off the streets and not eating people anymore, but does that mean the killing is done once and for all?

This is a point the movie seems to bring up, but never actually go anywhere deeper with. Instead, it’s more concerned with seeing how many times Dr. Lecter can fool people into thinking that he isn’t a mean, sadistic, and brutal cannibal. In fact, hearing that, I realize that these scenes should be somewhat fun, if not, totally hilarious. But they aren’t. Instead, they’re just drop dead serious, grim, and uninteresting.

Stop saying her name!

Stop saying her name!

And that’s about it.

The cast does try their hardest, however. Hopkins, as usual, fits into the role of Lecter as if he never left it to begin with. He’s weird and off-putting, but at times, can also be incredibly suave and charming, especially when he’s speaking of disemboweled bodies. But, at the same time, we are getting a lot more of him, which means that it can seem to be a bit of overkill; whereas the first movie featured nearly 15 minutes of screen-time devoted to Lecter, Hannibal features nearly an-hour-and-a-half of him, which means that his act can get a bit old and stale as the time rolls along. Especially since, you know, he isn’t really growing as a character – he’s still killing, conning, and eating people, the way he always did.

The only difference now is that he’s a lot more laid-back than usual.

And though she tries, too, Julianne Moore really does have all the odds stacked against her playing this role that was definitely made a lot better, and more famously by Jodie Foster. Though Moore seems to be still playing into that same kind of ruthless aggression and dedication that Foster worked well with, it’s hard to get past the fact that she’s playing the same character, but it not being Foster. Ray Liotta shows up and, of course, plays a crooked cop that seems like he has nobody’s best intentions at heart and is fine, but once again, what else is new?

The best of the rest, though, is an absolutely nonidentical Gary Oldman as the disgusting and vile-looking Mason Verger. From the beginning, it’s difficult to recognize that Oldman is even in the movie (mostly do the ugly, but impressive make-up and costume job done to him), but after awhile, it’s obvious that it is him, and the performance works wonders from then on. Despite being able to only use his eyes and voice for his character, Oldman still gives off an deceitful feel that helps make it clear that, if the film was just about him and Lecter sparring-off in a duel of wit and evilness, then it would probably be better.

But sadly, that is not what we get and instead, we’re left reaching for our copies of the Silence of the Lambs.

Consensus: Despite trying its hardest, Hannibal cannot quite reach the same creepily entertaining heights as its predecessor and feels more like a waste for each of the talent involved.

5 / 10

It's okay, Jules. We feel the same way.

It’s okay, Jules. We feel the same way.

Photos Courtesy of: Screen Musings

Glory (1989)

Yes. People did go to war over the Confederate flag.

During the Civil War, the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was one of the more infamous troupes, due to the fact that they were, for the most part, filled with black men. Some were freemen from the North, others were slaves, but all of them were under the command of Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), a commander who is still reeling from the affects of the warfare he’s experienced in his lifetime. Already, before they even set out for battle, there was already plenty of trepidation towards the 54th, because some believed that blacks could not be controlled, or commanded in such a way that would have them prepped and ready for war. Despite this, Shaw, along with his second-in-command (Cary Elwes), try their hardest to not only discipline the soldiers, but even relate and connect with them, as hard as it may seem to do. Some soldiers, like John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman), are more than willing to go along with all of the problems they encounter fighting for a country that doesn’t accept them as human beings, whereas others, like Trip (Denzel Washington), aren’t and want the whole unit to know that they aren’t fighting for freedom at all – they’re just fighting to die. Obviously, this causes problems between each and everyone and all culminates in the disastrous attack on the Confederate fort in Charleston, S.C.

Goofy-looking 'stache.

Goofy-looking ‘stache.

Glory is, as most people say, a “classic war film”. Not to take any spit out of that statement, but that’s sort of true. It’s a very good movie, in fact, and one that shows both the humane, as well as harsh realities of the war. At the same time, however, it’s also a film about slavery, and how two races can simultaneously connect to one another, while also having to prepare for a war that they may not actually win and come away alive from. Edward Zwick clearly had a lot on his plate here and it’s one of the many things that makes Glory a solid war film that deserves to be seen by any person out there who either, loves film, history, or a combination of the two.

But, that doesn’t make it a perfect movie, as some may call it.

For one, its extremely dated in the way the story is told. What I mean by this is that rather than getting a story about black people trying to get by under extreme war-conditions, told by a black person, we are told the story through their white commander, as played by Matthew Broderick. It’s understandable that the reason for this is to show how the black soldiers are helping to make Shaw open his eyes a bit more to the realities that, well, believe it or not, African Americans are humans, too. Even though he lives in a world where slavery does exist (although, not for much longer), he knows that these black men are just as honest and humane as he is, which is why we see the tale told, in his own words, through his own eyes, and in his own way.

However, at the same time, it sort of feels like a disservice to the actual black folks in the story. Why are we being told that these fellas are all magical and lovely people, when we can clearly see that happening, right in front of our very own eyes? Did we really need to deal with Shaw’s voice-over to begin with? In all honesty, probably not, because it’s already understood that Shaw will start to warm up and grow closer to these black soldiers that are under his command. So, for anything else to be thrown on, makes it feel like stuffy and, well, a bit schmaltzy. Not saying that it didn’t happen in this way, but the way Shaw is used as our heart and soul of the story, makes Glory seem like it’s taking the easy road out – rather than letting the story be told by those who are most affected to begin with.

But, everything else about Glory, aside from that little nugget of anger, is great.

Like I stated before, Zwick clearly had a lot to work with here, and he does so seamlessly. He gives enough attention to the black soldiers that matter most and show how each and every personality can, at times, clash, while at other times, rub against one another to create a far more perfect and in-sync union. No character here is made out to be a perfect human being, and because as such, it’s easy to sympathize with these characters early-on – and makes it all the more tragic to realize that, in all honesty, they aren’t really fighting for much.

There’s one scene in which this is presented perfectly when Denzel Washington’s Trip goes on about the fact that even when the war is over and everybody goes home, he’ll go back to whatever slum he’s been forced to stay in, whereas Shaw and his white counterparts will be able to head back and relax in his big old mansion, and continue to live his life of total luxury. This scene, above all else, drives home the point that these soldiers may, yes, be fighting for their lives, but are doing so in a way because, quite frankly, they have nowhere else to go, or nothing else better to make up with their time. Most of the soldiers are slaves, so therefore, they have no freedom to begin with; however, even the ones that are free, don’t really have much to do except still be treated as minorities and non-equals, although not as harshly as slaves.

Mediocre 'stache.

Mediocre ‘stache.

So yes, it’s a very sad tale, if you really think about it. But Glory shows that there is some light to be found in the folds. There’s heart, there’s humor, and above all else, there’s humanity here that shows that each and everyone of these soldiers were, race notwithstanding, human beings. And because of this fact, the performances are all the more impressive by showing the depth to which these characters are portrayed.

Though Broderick’s Shaw didn’t really need to be the central figure of this huge story, he’s still solid enough in the role to make me forget about that fact. Ever since Ferris Bueller, it’s known that Broderick has always been trying to get past that image and, occasionally, he’ll strike gold. This is one of those times wherein we see Shaw as not only a clearly messed-up vet of the war, but also one that has enough pride and courage to still go back to the battle and ensure that each and everyone of his men are fit for the same battle he will partake in. Cary Elwes is also fine in showing that, even despite him being more sympathetic to the slavery cause, still has to push his men as far as he possibly can, without over-stepping his superior, obviously.

But, as expected, the best performances come from the three cast-members who get the most attention out of all the other black characters: Andre Baugher, Morgan Freeman, and of course, the star-marking turn from Denzel Washington. As an educated, smart and free black man, Baugher’s character faces a lot more tension from the rest of the black soldiers, and his transition from being a bit too soft for all the training, to becoming a far more rough, tough and gritty one, is incredibly believable. Freeman, too, stays as the heart and soul of the black soldiers and proves to be the one who steps up the most when push comes to shove and a leader is needed. Freeman, in just about everything he does, always seems to become a leader of sorts, so it’s no surprise that the role here fits him like a glove.

However, the one that shines above the rest is, obviously, Denzel Washington as the rebel of the group, Trip.

And the reason why I said “obviously”, is because it’s well-known by now that Denzel was given an Oscar for his work here and understandably so; not only does he steal every scene, but when you get down to the bottom of the story, you realize that he’s the heart and soul of the whole thing. Without him, this would have probably been a normal tale of blacks and whites coming together, to fight the obstacles set against them, and fight a war, but it’s Trip who’s the one that hits everybody’s head and wakes them up to the harsh realities that is the world they live in. Denzel is, at times, hilarious, but also brutally honest, and it’s his voice that keeps this movie’s humanity afloat.

Now, if only the movie had been about him to begin with and not the white dude.

Consensus: Heartfelt, emotional, and well-acted on practically all fronts, Glory is a solid war picture, that also happens to have a message about racial equality that doesn’t try too hard to hit you over the head.

8.5 / 10

No 'stache at all and guess what? He's the coolest one.

No ‘stache at all and guess what? He’s the coolest one.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Fountain (2006)

Next time I decide to watch this, someone remind me to smoke a crazy amount of weed.

The plot is confusing, but I’ll give it a go anyway. Modern-day scientist, Tommy Creo (Hugh Jackman), loves his wife (Rachel Weisz) and wants nothing more than her love and her life to be there with him. However, she has caught a very serious case of cancer and is starting to fade away. In the meantime, she gives him her book that she wrote, which tells the story of a 16th Century conquistador, finding a Tree of Life where sap that grants you everlasting life is lying somewhere in there. While this story is going on, there’s also another where a man from the future, chills out in a bubble for reasons I can’t totally specify right now. Just watch and you’ll see.

I’d be a friggin’ fool if I sat here, wrote about how much I knew exactly what this flick was about, and told you that I’m the highest-mofo there is on the totem-pole. Because, honestly, let’s face it: I’m still not a 100% sure I know everything about this flick. However, I know enough (roughly 80%), so I’d say that’s worth some credit, right? Well, either way, this flick is still a bit of a head-scratcher but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or astrologer to get what the hell this flick is all about. Just know this: It’s a movie that’s about a guy trying to save his slowly-dying wife, from, well, dying. If you know that, you’re good and probably a lot better off than most people who probably walked into this back in the days of 2006.

Also, another pointer before watching this film that may or may not judge how much you like this flick is that it’s directed by Darren Aronofsky. Yes, that Darren Aronofsky. So, there ya go. Two pointers for the price of one review. Continue to read if you’d like. If not, sit down, shut up, and see what the hell I gots to say.

Thanks for sticking by if you’ve gotten this far. Really do appreciate it.

It's what they call: burning love. Geddd it.......

It’s what they call, “burning love”. Geddd it?!?!?

Anyway, what makes this flick such a mind-teaser is because even if you do feel like you have it known, from beginning to end, there’s still probably one or two scenes that may throw you off your grind and have you re-think what it is you just came to the conclusion with. For some, that may annoy the hell out of, but for others (such as yours truly), it works and makes the film more worth the watch and wait. It’s what makes it special in the way that it doesn’t is that it can be taken in in many, different ways; but no matter where your mind wanders or what type of philosophical babble you may speak about with your hip and cool friends at PBR-tasting parties, you still can’t get past the fact that this is a story about a man, who is trying to save his wife. It’s a story that’s been done to death by now, but given the ideas and themes that Aronofsky presents, it takes on a whole, new meaning.

Since the flick takes place in three different ways, you never know what is true, what’s really happening and how it affects the actual people you think you’re watching. All you can know is whatever you decide to believe in. Sounds stupid, I know, but using your noggin is mainly what these types of movies are made for. To see this couple go through their ups and their downs, is not only beautiful, but warms your heart as well. That’s why when everything starts to turn sour for them, you really feel it and get right behind them, in hopes that everything will work itself out. However, that’s just not the hand that life deals ya sometimes.

That’s why watching this touched me. Granted, I wasn’t crying myself to sleep after I saw this, but the themes of everlasting love, doing whatever’s in your will-power for the one you love, and never losing hope in the face of doom, really resonated with me. Not saying that I’ve ever had to deal with anything quite like that, but the feelings of having to go through such situations and crises as that, resonated with me. You can tell that this story came from a real soft-spot in Aronofsky’s heart and as much as he may focus on the look, the visuals, and the hypnotic score, the story is what really keeps it grounded in a sense of reality and drama, no matter how loose the ends may get.

Speaking of the way it looks, it’s downright beautiful. Apparently, the story behind this movie is that not only did Aronofsky had to delay this for about a whole two years, but also had to cut-back on the budget as well. Supposedly, it went from $70 million, to $35 million, and yet, this is what they came up with. To be honest, I’m shocked that the studios let Aronofsky get away with this, but better yet, I’m wondering just how the man got it to look like that at all. It’s a beauty of a film from start-to-finish and feels more like a bunch of moving-images that capture your eyes, as well as your wonder. Even if you hate this flick’s story because you have no idea what’s actually going, at least you can feel at peace just gazing at the masterful artwork on-display here. Beauty of a film, if I’ve ever seen one.

However, I still can’t sit here and lie as if I know it all about this flick and also say that it’s the masterpiece some have made it out to be. For me, as much as I didn’t mind the story, the ideas, the themes, or the direction, I still feel as if this was made by some kid who got way too high one night, sat down, got a whole bunch of paper, found a typewriter and decided to pen a script about all of the mind-bending jumble he came up with and thought was as smart as the dickens. No offense to Aronofsky, because the guy’s got what it takes as a writer, but some of this feels like it’s a bit too big for even his own ambitions, and a lot less in the mind-set of coming up with something all of us can understand in one, simple language.

Like that scene from Spider-Man 2. Except with more under-lining themes of love and immortality. I think.

Like that scene from Spider-Man 2. Except with more under-lining themes of love and immortality. I think.

I know I may sound like a total and complete brat who can’t handle movies that challenge my sense of thought, but some of this is overly-ambitious. Hell, I’m still wondering if it all makes sense and I don’t know if that’s a knock against him for his pretentiousness  or me for my own stupidity. Either way, not everything will touch you and it sure as hell will have you confused, which is why I think Aronofsky could have toned things down a tad bit more than he did. Then again, maybe I just needed to be one of those kids that got way too high.

Because then, I would have seen the world for all of it is. Man.

The only people apart of this movie who didn’t seem to inhale one ounce of them special-stogies, were it’s two stars: Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. Both are amazing, but both attribute so much in their own, separate ways. Jackman is amazing in this role because no matter what suspicious activities he may try to pull off to pull his own ego, we know that he’s a good guy and would do anything for his wife, even if that meant putting his own life at risk. Within the past couple of years, we have all come to know and appreciate what Jackman’s been able to do as dramatic-force, but here, he really steps up his game and has us reel and feel for a dude that seems to deserve our sympathy. But he never begs for it, and that’s why this guy is so good at playing it straight and laced-up.

Weisz is also amazing in this role because she gets to show everybody why the hell it is that we love her so much, and what makes her character worth caring for. Not only is she a nice person, but she’s a very pleasant person that seems to want the best for her and her hubby. It’s a shame that her and Aronofsky aren’t together anymore, because if anything, it seems like he really knew how to film her and make her look as beautiful as she always seems to be. I’m going to miss their pairings. But who knows, maybe time will settle and they’ll reunite one more time. That’s if, James Bond backs out of the way. That sneaky, little devil him.

Consensus: Will most of you out there understand The Fountain from start-to-finish? Hell to the no! But will most of you at least get the general idea of what it’s trying to say, without understanding why? Probably, yes! It’s a very good movie that may bite off a bit more than it can definitely chomp down on, but Aronofsky’s ideas and themes, resonate with any person that has either loved someone, been loved, or cared for a person, ever in their life. If you’re not that person, just watch Requiem for a Dream. Then, you’ll smile and appreciate life, you heartless wretch.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Look at the stars, honey. They remind me of life, all of it's beauty, and how we should live our lives. You know?"

“Look at the stars, honey. They remind me of life, all of its beauty and how we should live our lives. You know?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Pi (1998)

My favorite kind is pumpkin, how ’bout yours?

Max Cohen (Sean Gullette) is a mathematical genius that may, or may not be crazy and imagining things. Okay, there’s actually no question about it! He is going crazy and imagining things, but he doesn’t know that yet, nor does anybody else around him. However, what does aid him in this state of absolute craziness and non-stop paranoia, is the fact that he’s able to count and predict numbers in daily-routines. He even believes that he can predict the patterns in the Stock Market and make billions and billions of dollars. However, eventually, others begin to catch onto him, or so he thinks. For some reason, he has a bunch of neighbors that can’t seem to mind their own business; a overly-friendly rabbi who constantly bothers him at a local coffee shop to talk numbers; an old friend/confidant of his (Mark Margolis) that warns him of the dangers of getting into your own head a bit too much; and a suited-up, business-lady of sorts that is always calling him and finding him on the streets, in the subways and right outside of his apartment. So basically, it’s Max versus the world, or at least that’s how it all may be playing out in his head. You never know!

That’s not the most perfect synopsis ever summarized for this movie, but you get the idea: Dude’s smart, dude’s crazy, dude’s paranoid, bad stuff happens to dude. It’s a premise we’ve all seen done a million times before, but what sets this movie apart from the rest of of those other flicks about basket cases, is Darren Aronofsky’s highly-stylized direction. See, back before he gave us asses-to-asses, killer ballerinas, or even Noah’s ark, Darren Aronofsky was just another young, Jewish kid from New York that wanted to make movies and wanted to make his presence known.

Hasidic Jew-paranoia. Can't say I've ever been there, but why not!

Hasidic Jew-paranoia: Can’t say I’ve ever been there, but why not!

So, of course, what better way to do so then have your whole movie filmed in grainy black-and-white, crazy editing-tricks only seen in certain music videos at the time, and have a heavy-electronic score done by the one and only Clint Mansell! And while that aspect of the story may separate from the millions and millions of others, it isn’t like the style takes over what should be substance. Because while Aronofsky definitely does show the many tricks up his sleeves that he has, he also realizes that in order to push a story forward, you have to be able to trust your audience that they’ll be paying attention, using their brains whenever possible, connecting the dots and, if worse comes to worse, be taking notes down on whatever piece of information they may see as “pertinent” to the story, and what might not be.

Because of this trust between Aronofsky and the audience he clearly is making this movie for, it’s easy to see why one person would get mixed-up in it all. Hell, even yours truly, a person that was strung-up on two cups of coffee by the time of watching this, even got lost on a whole bunch of clues/hints/ideas/whatever-the-hell that was thrown my way. That’s probably less of a complaint about the movie, and more of a problem I just have a silly, stupid, cheese-burger-loving human being, but so be it! I’m not always up-on-my-game, I tell you!

Anyway, Aronofsky keeps this movie moving at a nice pace where you don’t always have enough time to make sense of everything that’s happening, nor do you quite allow all of the details of this story sink in just yet. You sort of just have to roll with the punches, and see exactly where it is that Aronofsky ends up with this story, and where he takes all of his characters. Needless to say, it’s a crazy adventure that definitely doesn’t take it easy on you, much like Aronofsky’s other movies that would soon follow.

Which is, yet again, another aspect of Aronofsky’s movies that worked so damn well here, as well. His style may be overbearing, but I think that’s the point. In order to racket-up as much tension as humanly possible for a pseudo-intellectual thriller that runs just under an-hour-and-a-half, Aronofsky throws whatever the hell it is that he can at us. Certain scenes in this movie seem like dreams that linger on in to the territory of being nightmares, which is all because our protagonist, Max Cohen, is just a total and complete nut-job. Although it should definitely be said that he’s a sympathetic one, if only because we truly feel bad that a guy such as him would be subject to so much mind-fuckery that it’s insane. Also, Sean Gullette does a nice job at making this a guy we can believe both as a weirdo, as well as a guy that can be nice and normal, if his mind and his habit of number-crunching allows him to do so. But most of all, what makes him so damn watchable is that we’re right there with him for the whole adventure he’s taken on.

Tio lives! Better yet, he speaks!

Tio lives! Better yet, he speaks!

Everything he sees, we see; everything he hears, we hear; everything he feels, we feel; everything he thinks, we think. Why? Well, it’s all because we are inside his mind the whole entire movie; which is both a good thing, as well as a bad thing.

It’s good, because it constantly throws us for a loop every time we think we have this story all completely figured-out; but on the flip side, it’s not-so-good because the dude is clearly crazy and doesn’t always have the right idea about whatever is in that thick head of his. Therefore, since we’re seemingly placed inside of his mind, lounging on a spec of his brain, it’s never clear where this will go, why or with whom. It’s all up in the air, and I think that’s how Aronofsky wants it to be, if all because he knows that sometimes, these types of stories can end in such predictable, obvious ways. Good on his part for not letting it be so, since this could have easily just been another case of a first-timer getting a bit too big for his britches. Even if so, it’s done him well in the 16 years since. That’s for sure.

Consensus: Easily one movie to throw any smart and determined viewer for a loop, Pi is the type of movie you can’t expect to get, but at least pay enough attention to that you understand just enough in order to feel like you’re along for the psychological thrill-ride Aronofsky loves having us be aboard for.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

I would say "don't do it", but by the same token, he does make a pretty good case for why "he should". So who am I to stop someone from doing what they clearly want to do?

I would say “don’t do it”, but by the same token, he does make a pretty good case for why he “should”. So who am I to stop someone from doing what they clearly want to do?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

The Wrestler (2008)

I’m sure Hogan really does know what’s best.

Mickey Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, an aging professional wrestler who continues to wrestle matches in an attempt to cling on to his 1980’s heyday despite his failing health, while also trying to mend his relationship with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and find romance with a stripper (Marisa Tomei).

Some of you may not know this (and if you do, mucho brownie points go out to you), but back in the day, I used to be a hardcore wrestling fan. Yeah, I knew it was fake. Yeah, I knew that the two guys dressed-up in speedos that were beating the shit out of each other didn’t really hate each other outside of the ring. And yeah, I knew it was a bit childish for a kid that was in 8th grade, but you know what? I watched it and loved it all for the same reasons I watch and love movies so much: entertainment-value. That’s what’s so fun about wrestling that you don’t need to have a brain, a PHD, or even a job to enjoy wrestling, you can just watch it and have a good time. Seriously, if you don’t watch a single match of professional wrestling, then you my friend, are totally lying to yourself.

However, as much as I may patronize the other people out there who don’t feel the same as I do when it comes to half-naked men rolling around and beating each other up, I still feel the same about this movie as any other professional wrestling fan in saying that I love this movie, not just because it shows some legitimacy and real-danger to a piece of entertainment that has been the butt of every joke since the 80’s, but because it shows us what wrestlers are when they aren’t in the ring: real people. Maybe that’s nothing new we haven’t already heard from countless other stories of the same-nature, but what I think makes this approach so different and timeless, is the fact that director Darren Aronofsky makes us feel as if we are there, along for this depressing, dark, and tormented ride.

Nothing says family-daughter bonding more than aimless walks on a deserted New Jersey Boardwalk.

Nothing says family-daughter bonding more than aimless walks on a deserted New Jersey Boardwalk.

This is probably the most normal piece of material that Aronofsky has ever touched and to be honest, you would not be able to tell from watching this that this was the same guy who made a movie where people get sped-up high for an hour and 40 minutes. There’s nothing flashy that Aronofsky pulls off here with the camera but what he does do with the camera, is actually make us feel as if we are there, in a sort of documentary-style way. The camera literally follows Randy wherever he goes and it’s sort of like a TV news crew just found the guy, decided to put the camera on him, and just let real life roll for the guy. It gives us a very candid, fly-on-the-wall look at this story and makes us feel as if everything we see, hear, feel is as natural as it can get. That’s not just from Aronofsky’s end of the spectrum, that’s from everybody else involved, especially you know who.

In case you couldn’t tell by the “you know who” I was just referencing in that last sentence, I was talking about Mickey Rourke in his perfect-performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson. It’s obvious that Randy is based-off of the likes of such wrestling-stars like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Ultimate Warrior, and so many other famous-faces of the squared-circle from the 80’s, but don’t let that get to you, because Rourke makes Randy his own piece of originality and thank heavens for that. Seriously, I think Mickey is in every single shot of this movie and in some movies, to some people, that would probably be torture that you would have actually had to pay to see for 2 hours, but instead with this movie and this performance, it’s the total-opposite. You will never want to take your eyes off of Mickey and all of the subtle nuances he pulls-off with his facial-expressions. You can tell that there is a battered and beaten soul underneath all of the tanned skin, blonde hair, and chiseled-up, but aging muscles, and you never forget that you’re watching Randy, even if Mickey totally takes over the whole-movie.

As sad as this character may be, Mickey brings out so much fun, excitement, and joy within this guy that you just can’t help but feel like you too would want to share a beer and play Nintendo with him as well. You can tell that a lot of the scenes here are totally ad-libbed from Mickey and it just gives this movie more of a natural feel, as if Mickey decided to walk into the shoot everyday, do his part, but also have a lot of fun with the rest of the cast as well. As I said before, you are never going to want to take your eyes off of Rourke here because he always has something to show you, always has something to surprise you with, and best of all, always has something to make you fell more and more for this guy, no matter how much he screws-up.

If more strippers looked like Marisa Tomei, I'd probably be broke.

If more strippers looked like Marisa Tomei, I’d probably be broke.

There is so much about this character that just screams, “PREDICTABLE, PREDICTABLE, PREDICTABLE!”, but Mickey is above that and makes this guy feel like he has more of a heart than you could ever expect from a low-life like him. Every chance that Randy gets to make life happy for himself and the others around him, he finds his own way of just screwing it up and rather than being pissed at this guy and losing all hope in him, you’re still pissed at him but feel as if he can change, and feel like he just deserves a break. That’s the work of magic from Rourke, because he is able to give us a character that is so selfish, so idiotic sometimes, and so burnt-out without ever admitting it, but yet, still have us love the guy to death and feel as if we are cheering him on, just as much as his wrestling fans are. It’s one of the best performances I have ever seen and it’s one that Rourke was freakin’ robbed of and without Mickey, this film just would have not succeeded. Yeah, if they went with Nic Cage like they had originally-planned, things would have been a hell of a lot different come Oscar-time.

Another character that is basically Randy “The Ram” but with tits and more naked than he is throughout the whole movie, is Marisa Tomei as Cassidy. Tomei is playing the usual, “hooker with the heart of gold” role, but knowing Tomei and what she can do with any role you throw at her, she changes it up and makes her feel more raw than you’d ever expect from this gal. Cassidy is a lonely, sad, and aging piece of work, just like Randy, but still feels the need to push the ones away from her that still may make a difference in her life. Watching her and Randy interact with one-another, shoot the shit, and pretty much start to connect with each other more than they have with anybody else, is a thing of beauty and I think all of that is mainly because of the chemistry between the two. Evan Rachel Wood is good as Randy’s estranged daughter, Stephanie and even if she may be the weakest-link out of the three, that still doesn’t mean jack shit because she is still so good, providing us with great insight into a character that wanted to be loved and held, just as much as Randy does now.

Still fake, right?

Still think it’s fake, right?

These three performances are mainly who tie this film together with it’s neat and nice little bow at the end, but I’m telling you, this flick will take you down a dark, sad road you may feel very affected by. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not totally depressing and in-fact, will actually have you laughing a good, couple of times throughout. However, when the film wants to make you feel any type of emotion that has to do with sad, heartfelt, or touching, it hits the spot right away. You can say that’s because of Rourke, you could say that’s because of Tomei, and you could that’s because of Aronofsky, but I say it’s every single piece of this puzzle is what makes it so damn near-perfect, and yes, after 4 years and seeing it just about 5 times, I still cried my eyes-out like a big freakin’ baby and you know what? That’s alright with me, because once Monday Night hits, I’m watching RAW baby!

Consensus: Whether or not you’re a fan of professional wrestling, won’t matter because The Wrestler is about more than just a bunch of guys fake-fighting in a trampoline/ring. It’s a perfectly-acted, somber-look at the life of a broken and depressed old-man that is starting to come to terms with where his life is going, why it’s headed there, and what he can do to make right again. It’s an emotional-trip that still hits me where it hurts all of these years later.

9.5/10=Full Price!!

Sad to say, but at this stage in Ric Flair's career, Mickey Rourke probably has more wrestling-skills than him.

Sad to say, but at this stage in Ric Flair’s career, Mickey Rourke probably has more wrestling-skills than him.


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