Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: WWE

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.


The Man With the Iron Fists (2012)

It would have totally been better if the rest of Wu-Tang was here. Even you, ODB. Even you.

In feudal China, small village’s blacksmith (RZA) is forced by radical tribal factions to create elaborate tools of destruction. When the clans’ brewing war boils over, the stranger channels an ancient energy to transform himself into a human weapon. As he fights alongside iconic heroes and against soulless villains, one man must harness this power to become savior of his adopted people.

With Wu-Tang Clan madman RZA directing, co-writing with Eli Roth, and having Quentin Tarantino produce, The Man With the Iron Fists definitely seemed like something in my backyard. I love the old, kung-fu movies that RZA obviously loves and pay homages to here, and the story itself just seemed like the perfect fit for a mixture of those oldies, with the new, gore-tastic days of today. Sadly, all of that hype and promise lead to it being just another passion-project, that never goes it’s full-distance.

Apparently during post-production of this movie, RZA threw a huge fit because he had to cut-down a 4 and-a-half hour movie, to an hour and-a-half. To be honest, I don’t blame the guy because that is a butt-load of footage and seems like the type of job I wouldn’t want being told to do, especially if it was my own movie. However, I think that’s the problem this film hits in the first-place: it’s WAY too cut-down. What I mean by this is that certain characters will just show-up for 5 minutes, and apparently have some sort of significance to the plot, without us ever realizing it. It almost seems like there were all of these back-stories meant for these types of characters, but weren’t there for the final-cut, so instead, we get a bunch of characters that don’t really do anything for the plot other than just show-up, speak their lines, and get killed.

That element of this movie, and the fact that the story is pretty confusing is the reason as to why the cutting of this film hurts the final-product. Throughout the first hour or so, it’s never made clear as to who the villains are, who the heroes are, and just who the hell this story is going to be focused on. The Man With the Iron Fists himself, doesn’t really get much of a spot-light until the last 30 minutes or so to where he all of a sudden means a lot to the premise because of something bad that happens to him. I mean, there was an idea of who the bad guys were because of who they killed, how they did it, and what their intentions were, but after awhile, it just became a bit confusing and made me wonder just who was important to this story and who wasn’t. Once again, there was probably plenty of footage developing these characters and their story-lines a lot more, but sadly, didn’t make the final-cut and are just kind of left lost on the cutting-room floor. Poor scenes, maybe there’s a director’s cut in the future. Maybe.

Where the story fails, however, is where the action of this movie prevails and definitely made this a lot of an easier ride as it went through. Even though the whole story is filled with little bits and pieces of action here and there, the final 30 minutes is where all of it really comes into play and tears down the house and shows RZA’s true eye for fun and entertainment. The kung-fu is goofy with a lot of wire-work used to the point of where it almost seems like self-parody; the music is a mixture of hip-hop and some score music, even though it’s not entirely like the same soundtrack RZA used for Kill Bill, and gives every scene a pretty cool, retro feel while still keeping it current; and the gore/blood is pretty awesome and shows that there was a huge Roth inspiration going-on throughout this flick the whole time. All three of these factors is why I enjoyed the last 30 minutes of this flick because instead of focusing on a crappy and confusing plot, with crappy and confusing characters, we get what we came for: bloody, crazy, and fun action without any logical-reasoning as to why all of these people are flying in the air other than the fact that they are in a kung-fu movie.

Even though these action scenes are the only times the movie really comes to life, the cast does do their best to try and help-out, but end up getting over-shadowed. Lucy Liu is having the same type of fun with this role, as she had with the one in Kill Bill, and that’s all fine and dandy until you realize that the gal isn’t really trying anything new, other than working with a lesser-script, and no offense bud, but lesser-director as well. The only one who seems to be having the most fun, and brings that out onto the audience is Russell Crowe as an English mercenary, Jack Knife (gedd it?!?). Crowe is such a weird-pick for this role, but seems like the perfect-fit once you see him because he knows what movie he’s in, what role he’s playing, and what’s expected of him to make it work. Even though Crowe kicked plenty of ass in Gladiator, it still doesn’t make him any type of martial-artist master, but still shows that he can be as sinister and dangerous as he was in that classic. Yeah, it’s only been 12 years and I’m already calling that one a classic.

As a director, RZA may not be the unstoppable force to be reckoned with, but at least he still tries to maintain that credit as an actor. Sadly, his role is mainly just him keeping that one, signature, sullen-look we all know and love him for but sadly, doesn’t allow us to really stand-behind automatically, despite him being our main hero that we’re supposed to cheer for. Thankfully, though, RZA knows this and doesn’t take the center spot-light, which is pretty respectable in my opinion. Also, it was pretty neat to see former-WWE wrestler Dave Bautista show-up somewhere again as a bad-ass that can’t be stopped. I miss the hell out of that guy and it’s nice to see him doing movies now, even though a guy who turns to bricks and only has about 12 lines of dialogue isn’t the ideal role out there for a pro-wrestler. But hey, how many movies has John Cena showed-up in this year? Exactly.

Consensus: If it weren’t for the final 30 minutes of this movie where everything finally comes to head and is fun, exciting, and bloody just like we expected, The Man With the Iron Fists would have definitely been a huge-disappointment because of it’s lack of distinctive-style, sense of plot, or sense of characters. Instead, it just comes off as a minor-disappointment.


Win Win (2011)

If only Giamatti was coaching WWE-style wrestling, rather than that soft/real crap.

Paul Giamatti is a stressed out and frustrated attorney, father, and high school wrestling coach named Mike. He agrees to be a guardian to this old dude who is starting to suffer from dementia just to get some money. His grandson, Kyle (Alex Shaffer), shows up after running away from his mother that he hates. So Mike lets him live in his house with his family and he soon learns that he is also a badass wrestler that could save his shitty wrestling team.

Written/directed by a dude named Thomas McCarthy who I still need to check out more of considering that he’s only made two other films and I have heard nothing but lovely things for them both. Also, considering that he wrote for the near-perfect flick, ‘Up’, this is definitely a guy who is able to get the Kleenex out.

The story is pretty simple but the way that McCarthy writes and directs everything here, makes it all seem new and refreshing in its own little, non-original way. Everything here simply feels like real-life with real people, real situations, and real dialogue. McCarthy makes everything that happens in this story not seem like something before (even though that is the case) by just giving us the problems that these characters face but after spending so much time with them, we can empathize with them and root them on no matter what.

McCarthy does a great job with balancing out comedy and drama very well here also. The comedy aspect works out perfectly because in about the first 45 minutes, I was peeing my pants in just how damn funny this dialogue was especially since there are a whole bunch of running gags that have to do with the older guys and the fact that their wrestling team sucked, and they bring it up basically every time the film goes towards the wrestling mat, but it’s very funny and never seems over-used. It seems like everybody in this film had me laughing my ass off at one point but when it came to the dramatic side of this flick, that’s where the film really started to surprise me.

There’s a moment where this film really starts to kick in to some very dramatic material but it never gets too schmaltzy or annoying, instead it stays real which is a true testament to McCarthy’s job as a screen-writer. The film never seems to be trying too hard to make us tear-up or even get us to feel something for these situations, it just sort of happens because we spend so much time with all of these characters and we get to love them. The whole dynamic between Mike and Kyle is very odd but great because it shows just how these two obviously different people need each other in their lives for solace and comfort. It’s great to see how McCarthy puts in this flick as things start to get pretty dark by the end of the flick, but he still doesn’t lose his charm when it comes to writing and I still found myself laughing, even though I never teared up once. Yeah I know that it’s dumb to judge how much I liked a film by the fact if I cried or not but honestly, I was a baby during ‘Up’, so I was almost expecting the same thing here as well.

The problem for me with this film was the fact that by the end everything started to get very predictable and instead of me not knowing just what was going to happen next, I knew exactly what was going to occur and happen to these characters. Did I like this element in a way? Yes. Did I not like this in another way though too? Yes as well. The reason I didn’t like this element as much is because the fact that it was predictable just showed me that it didn’t seem like McCarthy was able to really go for the gutso with this script and try to really tug at our heart-strings but instead give us a satisfying, if predictable fall-out. This is good if you are trying to satisfy everybody who watches the flick but when it comes to people who really want to feel something when they are watching a comedy-drama, you shouldn’t make it feel like a cop-out and almost as if you were scared to really try anything else other than just staying light and happy. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the script was awesome but the last act for me was pretty disappointing considering how much the whole film made me feel.

What McCarthy does do perfectly here though is give us an ensemble cast that gives everyone here a chance to shine. Paul Giamatti is always great in everything he does, and continues to do so with his performance here as Mike. Giamatti is such a lovable dude that no matter how many bad things the characters that he’s playing does, we always somehow like him because it’s Paul Giamatti. He’s great at what he does and when it comes to playing the every-day daddy role, he handles it perfectly. Also, for his first role ever, Alex Shaffer does a pretty bang-up job as Kyle. Kyle is just a really simple kid that isn’t a bad seed by any chance other than the fact that he’s troubled but also very charming. Shaffer handles the charming and the troubled side of Kyle very well and seems like a mature kid right from the get-go that may not look like a kid I could leave the house key with, but by day 4, I’m practically telling him that I keep it under the rug when I’m not home.

Bobby Cannavale is a dude I have seen before but regardless he’s great here as Mike’s assistant-coach, Terry and made me laugh just about every damn time he opened up his mouth; Jeffrey Tambor is also a lot of fun as Vigman, Mike’s other assistant-coach because come on people, the guy is always funny; and it’s also great to see Burt Young actually working again because to be honest, after doing my ‘Rocky’ review I actually started to wonder if this dude was still alive. Terrible thought I know, but a thought none the less.

Amy Ryan is perfect as Mike’s wife, Jackie, who has that perfect balance of drama and comedy to the point of where she feels like a couple of moms that live right around me. At first, she seemed like she was going to be this highly annoying and strict mom who was very weird about having this kid come into the house, but after awhile you get to see her for who she really is and she’s just really cool and down-to-earth, which I was not expecting one bit. Great to know that she isn’t the crackhead mom in this flick though.

Consensus: Even though it gets very predictable by the end, Win Win is still well-written with rich characters, amazing performances by this ensemble cast, and a simple look and feel that seems like a genuine story.


Warrior (2011)

Before he destroys Batman, Tom Hardy gets to destroy his brother.

Tom Conlon (Tom Hardy) and older brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton) have pursued separate lives, but when Tom returns home to ask his father’s help in preparing for a championship bout, events lead the siblings back into each other’s paths.

Judging from the trailer, I was coming to expect a mixture between Rocky, The Fighter, and Never Back Down. 2/3 are great films that I loved, while the other one was shitty. This one is sort of in between.

Writer/director Gavin O’Connor does a great job of taking a plot and structure we have seen done time and time again, and still make it something amazing to watch. The first hour sets the whole story up, showing these two characters, who at first don’t even seem like brothers but if you have seen the trailer (which everybody has) you know that they are, and just how they each are different in their own way. The film also doesn’t try to explain what happened to these characters and why before the story begins, it is either brought up later in the film casually like it would in real life, and is sort of left up to our imagination.

Another great thing about this script is that the character development is amazing. I really felt intrigued by these characters because each were so likable and charming in their own ways, and you could tell that these two really are believable characters that you could see doing this extreme and intense sport for two reasons: one likes to do it because he’s simply angry, the other does it for money. As the story builds up, up, and away the dialogue gets very heart-wrenching and believable and works when it’s trying to show the problems a family has when they all stop loving and start hating. Hey, it’s a gay line but after watching this flick, you’ll see what I mean.

The fight scenes are also pretty bangin’ because I was expecting them to be all that shaky-cam crap we see in just about every single film where there’s some sort of action or tension happening, but instead they are incredibly well-staged and I could actually tell what was going on too. Also, when you hear somebody get their face smashed in, it sounds like somebody getting their faced smashed in and who doesn’t just love that?!?

The only problem with the fighting is that you had Hardy’s character practically laying out other fighters the same way every time just about 4 times in a row, and it didn’t bother me until I realized that he was just a new fighter. I mean yeah, there are sometimes guys that come into the ring every once and awhile that just totally show everybody else up, even with barely any prior MMA experience, but just watching this dude tear through professionals like Joey Chestnut with hot dogs was a little too hard to believe.

I have still been contemplating about whether or not I actually still liked the ending, or thought it was too schmaltzy but I’ve decided to basically go either way on it. The reason I liked the ending was because I felt that it was true to the story and really had me feeling even more connected to these guys more than ever, and when the ending happened, I felt like it was a great way to turn this story off. However, I started thinking about it more and more and started to realize that a lot of it got really schmaltzy and very lovey dovery way too quick.

I’m all down for cliches and predictability if the film keeps me entertained, which is what this film was doing for the longest time, but when all of these people just started going out all-over-the-place practically telling each other they love each other, it seemed a little cheap just for a more heartfelt ending. Did it touch me? A little bit but with all of the right things the script was doing beforehand it was kind of a shame to sort of see it go for the extra schmaltzy notes that The Fighter did so well in avoiding.

However, this film would be nothing without it’s perfect cast. Tom Hardy is near-perfect in his total bad-ass role as Tommy Conlon, who if you have seen Bronson, looks the part and if you have seen Inception, definitely knows how to act the part as well. Hardy just seems so angry about something the whole film and it really adds an extra layer of that mystery to him that has us attracted to his character in the first place, and he is just so incredibly tough-looking that when it comes to the fighting, I just about feared for whatever poor soul was in the ring with him next.

Joel Edgerton is also great as the modest and a lot more nicer brother, Brendan, and proves that he can handle a lead role all to himself. I guess some people will see Hardy’s performance and just keep their minds on him the whole time, but when it comes right down to it, Edgerton knows how to add those extra levels of emotional depth to him as well that when his character needs more sympathy from the viewers, we’re able to give it to him since he seems so likable and just like your average everyday high-school teacher, that will beat the shit out of you, if you don’t do your homework.

Nick Nolte has been doing some of these crackly old-fart roles that honestly hasn’t done many things well for him lately ever since his beautiful mugshot, but I think he’s starting to win that amazing rep he once had in Hollywood, and his role as Padd, the boys’ father is the real reason why he’s back in action. Nolte is probably the most interesting and sad character of the bunch because he is now a washed-up alcoholic that has messed his life up so bad that he can’t seem to win back the one he once had with his kids and now suffers more and more. Nolte commands the screen just about every time he gets and I think this is probably one of his most brutally honest roles as of late, which makes it all the more tragic to watch.

Oh, also Kurt Angle is here as the MMA equivalent to Ivan Drago, Koba. Didn’t believe it for a second but me want to go back to watching some WWE.

Consensus: Warrior starts to lose itself a real long way by the end of the film, but has great writing, perfect performances from the whole cast, some fun action, and a story that has been done before, but with still hits with that emotional punch that it needed so much.


300 (2007)

Had me totally convinced that I was born in the wrong century.

Retelling the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, it depicts the titanic clash in which King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his massive Persian army.

300 is the definitive 21st century guy movie. If you tell me that you watched 300, and didn’t automatically get inspired to hit the gym, and possibly a couple of people on the way, well then I will call you a huge liar. Or Persian.

This is adapted from Frank Miller’s graphic novel, which is also based off some actual true history right here. The film itself is directed by Zack Snyder, the guy who’s behind The Watchmen, Dawn of the Dead, and the new Superman film coming up and I must say that having seen this guy’s films he really does know how to make a film, as crazy and hectic as it may be, look beautiful. The visuals are outstanding, and the constant flairs of all these different colors hitting the screen, put you in this world where bloodshed is everywhere and only the strong will survive. This provides some beautiful shots, with some even better cinematography that seemed so hard to pull off, but somehow they did.

The one thing that some people may not actually see about this film is that it is about 40 minutes long, if it were to play in real-time. But instead Zack “Slow-Mo” Snyder makes almost every single action hit, stab, cut, kill, etc. it slow-motion which didn’t bother me at first, until I realized that almost everything is like this, and bothered me because I just felt like it was lazy directing to create a cooler look to the action.

However, despite that, I must say that the action is freakin’ awesome! Since this is a guy’s film you got non-stop shouting, bleeding, beheading, delimbing, swords going all over the place, shields being destroyed, and most of all you have those male-bonding scenes that may seem like a GLAAD parade with all these half-naked dudes in sweat and dirt, but as soon as you see the first action sequence that’s all off your mind, and you just wanna see some more people get thrashed to shreds. If you look away at one scene because this is too graphic for you, you are not a real man, I should know too (site name).

The script is full-on machismo with these one-dimensional caricatures talking like WWE wrestler’s. Honestly though, who cannot forget “THISSSS ISSS SPARTAAAA” or “Give them nothing! But take from them everything!!!!”. The dialogue may seem all a bit laughable, but in the end, the action just holds you over for good, and you will find you and your bros quoting this long after.

Gerard Butler is the freakin’ man as Leonidas, and perfectly captures that look and spirit that we image the Spartan warriors to have been. It’s just a shame that all he does is shit now, but we can always look back at the days when he was actually good. Lena Headey is also good as well as beautiful as his beautiful wife Gorgo. I also liked seeing Dennis Rodman as Xerxes. Oh…that wasn’t him…..could have had me fooled. It was also nice to see other stars in this such as Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, and David Wenham.

Consensus: Not to be taken too seriously, 300 is a more of an orgy of violence and gore, rather than an actual history document, but will entertain the hell out of all dudes, as well as provide plenty and I do mean plenty of beautiful visuals.