Wrestler, The
The Squared Circle
Randy "The Ram" Robinson ascends the top turnbuckle...

Darren Aronofsky's latest picture, "The Wrestler," tells the story of Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a professional wrestler decades past his prime. Robinson barely gets by performing for diehard wrestling fans in high school gyms and community centers around New Jersey.

The film stars Mickey Rourke as the down-and-out Robinson, who works at a grocery store when he isn't "sitting on other dudes' faces," as his boss puts it. When "The Ram" hits rock bottom, he reaches out to the daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) he abandoned in childhood and forms a close bond with a stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei).

While his heart aches from years of loneliness, Robinson's body can no longer withstand the beatings he takes in the ring. "The Ram" ignores his body's pleas when he receives an offer for a rematch with his 1980s arch-nemesis, The Ayatollah, which may be his ticket back to stardom.

Watching "The Wrestler" was an extremely personal, touching experience for me, as some of my most vivid memories of childhood involve pro wrestling. In the 80s, it was loud, colorful and bigger than life. Watching wrasslin' was pure escapism, just as absorbing as the pages of a comic book or the digitized pixels of a video game.

I would sit on the floor fascinated by the stories unfolding on the television set. There were a plethora of characters, each complete with their own gimmick. There were betrayals, alliances, soaring triumphs and crushing defeats. It was an exciting playground for a boy's imagination to run wild in.

I would reenact my favorite matches with big rubber wrestlers right there on the kitchen linoleum. Randy "Macho Man" Savage would climb to the top of the kitchen table and dive off, delivering a monster elbow on the sternum of "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff.

I choreographed the matches and played announcer too, delivering the color commentary complete with the name of every move the rubber gladiators were performing. I was the crowd, screaming and chanting "USA! USA!" or booing fervently at the bad guy who had the upper hand. And when the time came, I was the referee - handing out the final verdict with three slaps of my hand against the floor.

I was a fan, and a big one at that. My mother would stock up on white Hanes T-shirts and cut the neck so I could rip it off on Saturday mornings when Hulk Hogan body slammed someone. This would, of course, lead to impromptu matches with my father, where I would fly off the back of the couch like Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka onto him.

"The Wrestler" hit all the right spots, bringing those memories to the front of my brain with the force of a steel chair shot. I've been to those VFW Hall shows. I've seen the has-beens at high school gymnasiums. Aronofsky captured the atmosphere of those intimate settings flawlessly, and Mickey Rourke lives and breathes the part of a man past his prime who has a little fight left in him.

Thoughts of watching WCW Saturday Night at my grandmother's house, who was an ardent true believer of professional wrestler, come swirling into my psyche. She loved Ric Flair - thought he was the sexiest man alive. We would sit there and yell at the television set together, smiling from ear to ear. Those are some of the best memories I have from my childhood, and I'd like to thank the cast and crew of this film for letting me relive them for a couple of hours.

"The Wrestler" is an amazing film. There is a level of authenticity in this picture that is beyond compare to any other film you'll see this year. You feel every body slam and clothesline. You feel every drop of the blood, sweat and tears shed by Rourke.

Reviewed by: adam