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December 20, 2009
The Wrestler Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
2/8/200812/5/2009Village RoadshowDarren Aronofsky
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MA15+Mickey Rourke

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Mickey Rourke stars, brilliantly, in The Wrestler.

Shot for a paltry $US6 million The Wrestler became a critical hit and also took an impressive $US44 million at the worldwide box office. Having never seen the movie at cinemas ourselves we were very happy to receive the Blu-Ray for review from Village Roadshow. But what's The Wrestler about? Read on...

Back in the late 1980's, Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was a champion professional wrestler. Now 20 years later, he ekes out a living stacking shelves in a supermarket and performing fights for handfuls of die hard wrestling fans in high school gyms around New Jersey. It soon becomes clear though, that amateur wrestling is not just a money making arrangement for the physically shattered ex-champ the - ring is the only place of comfort to him in a world he finds bewildering.

Estranged from his teenage daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and essentially alone in the world, Randy is a battered dreamer who lives for the thrill of the show and the adoration of his fans. A setback forces Randy to reconnect with his daughter and striking up a blossoming romance with an aging stripper (Marisa Tomei). Yet all this cannot compare to the allure of the ring and passion for his art, which threatens to pull Randy "The Ram" back into the world of wrestling.

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It's looking a bit cool...
Despite my complete disliking of wrestling, primarily due to the fakeness, this is a riveting character study of a wrestler struggling 20 years after his peak and the crowds have gone. This movie isn't about WWE or other major franchises but rather focuses on wrestlers struggling to survive on the local circuit where a match fee of only a couple of hundred dollars is the most a wrestler can expect. There aren't any big 'spectacle' wrestling matches in this movie, so don't go into it expecting them, but the movie is all the better for it. I also very much appreciated director Darren Aronofsky's decision to show how "fake" wrestling is with pre-planned moves and results.

With Academy Award nominations Mickey Rourke and Marissa Tomei it comes as little surprise to see that their performances are absolutely astounding. It never actually "appears" that they are acting, but their characters are so real that this could be a documentary. The emotion of a broken man, which in a way mirrors the fortunes of Mickey Rourke in real life, is truly evident.

The Wrestler is a superb character driven movie with three superb performances from Mickey Rourke, Evan Rachel Wood and Marissa Tomei. Even if you're not a wresting fan this is a movie well worth checking out.

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Randy "The Ram" Robinson gets bloody...
I tell you what, I nearly had a heart attack when I started this movie as the opening Hopscotch logo was only presented in Standard Definition. Fortunately The Wrestler is, as expected, presented in full 1080p video on Blu-Ray. The film is frame in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and has been encoded using the AVC MPEG-4 codec. One must remember that The Wrestler was a very low budget movie costing only $US6 million to make and it has a very cheap, almost documentary, look and feel too it with plenty of noise, black crush and other issues present. Still, it only makes the movie seem more "real".

The Wrestler is presented on Blu-Ray with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (24-bit/48Khz) and it's fair to say that the audio is a notch or two above the video quality with plenty of clarity, but also plenty of use of the sub woofer and surround sound channels - in particular during the wrestling matches when the crowds and announcer will surround you. This disc includes a second audio track, a 2 channel Linear PCM track encoded at a very generous 2.3Mbps bitrate. It's also very clear and more then an acceptable audio experience.

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Evan Rachel Wood and Mickey Rourke.
There is a single English Hard of Hearing subtitle track on this disc which is large and clear to see on screen. It does shorten some of the dialogue, but it remains true to the intention of the script.

There are only a couple of extras on this disc, but they are pretty good and worth a look.

In The Ring (42:42): This is a very decent, in-depth making of documentary which looks at the production of this film, how real wrestlers were used, and a lot of actual actors. There are plenty of interviews with cast and crew as well as on-set footage from the filming. Quite riveting and a good insight into how the director, Darren Aronofsky, works out so much on-set. The video is only in Standard Definition bu the audio is a solid 1.5Mbps Linear PCM track.

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The Wrestler (2008) is a fantastic movie.
Interview with Mickey Rourke (15:45): A pretty good, honest, interview with Mickey Rourke in which he details much about joining the movie, the amount of effort to get fit for the movie, and working with the director, and even the question that he won't watch his own movies.

Theatrical Trailer (2:19): The theatrical trailer for the movie which sells is quite well but sadly is only in Standard Definition.

The Wrestler is a great movie which, as you all know, resurrected the career of Mickey Rourke in a big way. There is certainly plenty of violence, swearing and nudity in this film but it, in no way, ever seems unnatural or unrealistic for the tone of the movie. Brilliant from start to finish.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Village Roadshow. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.