The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Fox Searchlight Pictures - 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 109 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Digital
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Music by: Clint Mansell featuring Slash
Written by: Robert Siegel
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: April 21, 2009
"Love. Pain. Glory"
Mickey Rourke gives the performance of a lifetime as pro wrestler Randy The Ram Robinson, a former superstar now paying the price for twenty years of grueling punishment in and out of the ring. But he's about to risk everything to prove he has one more match left in him: a re-staging of his famous Madison Square Garden bout against The Ayatollah. Darren Aronofsky directs a powerful cast in this action-packed saga of guts, glory and gritty determination.
The Wrestler is a simple but engaging story about an over the hill professional wrestler named Randy Ram Robinson whose days of glory have passed. Ram (Rourke) has spent years physically abusing his body and living a fast paced, hard edged lifestyle that left little time for laying down a foundation of any kind. Its 20 years since he was wrestling's biggest draw, he lives in a trailer, works part-time at a local supermarket, and wrestles on weekends in front of small crowds for a mere pittance of what he probably made at the height of his popularity. His body is beaten and worn and he takes medication for back pain. Ram hasn't lost his passion for the sport that once had thousands shouting his name. His is still remembered by loyalists and respected by wrestlers both young and old. He is offered a re-match with The Ayatollah which will mark the 20th anniversary of their original/infamous Madison Square Garden bout but his health fails. He is told by the doctor that years of steroid abuse and other medications has taken its toll and he must retire.
This is difficult for Randy who then finds himself lonely and reflecting on his life. He turns to Pam (Tomei) a local stripper who goes by the name of Cassidy while working. Randy frequents the club and the two have maintained a steady but strictly disconnected relationship. Like Randy, Cassidy is past her prime but still has something to offer. He likes her and confides in her about his health and feelings of insecurity about his future. She sympathizes with him and tells him to seek out the only family he has which is his estranged daughter Stephanie. Pam helps him pick out a gift for her and he goes to see her. Randy hasn't been a very good father and Stephanie has a lot of baggage where he is concerned. They go out for the afternoon and are able to re-connect at least on some level. He is encouraged by their visit and essentially asks her to consider giving him another chance. The problem is that Randy is finding it difficult to separate himself from Ram and his attempt to adapt to life away from the cheers of the crowd and having to punch a time clock leave him frustrated and torn. When his affections are spurned by Pam and his reestablished relationship with Stephanie crumbles Randy decides that there is only one solution. His is prepared to risk everything because the only thing in his life that has ever been constant has taken place in the ring.
Wow. This was a really good movie. Mickey Rourke's portrayal of the gentle, caring and lonely Randy (outside of the ring) balanced perfectly against the grittier, long hair wearing, steroid injecting, high energy Ram that steps into the ring. This is a sympathetic and very fallible character that has positive traits that help to elevate his status as an honest and very likeable individual. I was captivated and moved by Rourke's utterly convincing performance. The scene that takes place at the pier between Randy and Stephanie was emotional and touching. Evan Rachel Wood is such a gifted young actress. She only has three scenes in the entire film. All were with Rourke and the last two were both powerful and memorable. Marisa Tomei has matured as an actress since her Oscar win for My cousin Vinny 17 years ago. The dedication she has to her craft was plainly obvious watching her in this film. Her Academy Award nomination was justly deserved in my opinion. The film's visual style was apropos and intriguing. The tight camera work, lighting and choice of music captured the essence of the world these characters live in. The Wrestler was shot in just 40 days and had a limited budget but that didn't keep it from being one of the most interesting character studies and best films I have seen recently.
The rating is for violence, sexuality/nudity, language and some drug use.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
The Wrestler comes to Blu-ray from Fox featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 29 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.8 mbps.
This film's visual style doesn't lend itself to the crisp, high gloss, three dimensional look of most new release films released on Blu-ray but this is a creative decision that doesn't reflect negatively on its presentation. The video has an overtly grainy texture that gives it a gritty, filmlike quality. Resolution is excellent as images are clearly rendered with appreciable detail and discerning nuance during close ups. Colors are natural, tonally delineated and occasionally vibrant. Skin tones among the cast vary and range from Rosy to pale while appearing textural and lifelike. Blacks are deep but a bit flat and shadow detail was crushed slightly which left some of the darker segments ( like those in Randy's van and the strip club) looking less dimensional. I didn't see any signs of compression related artifacts or extraneous video noise.
The high resolution DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack featured Dialogue that is presented with crystal clear intonation, full bodied vocal texture, and deep room penetration. Imaging across the front of the room was excellent as sounds were integrated with precision. The films hard edged rock music is equally distributed through the main speakers and surrounds which augments it visceral quality. The room roars to life during the wrestling events as the sounds of the crowd and pulsating heavy metal music are charged with dynamic energy and tactile bass response. The music score includes a sweet sounding fuzz free electric guitar that draws upon the film's quieter moments to help set the mood. Like the rest of the music it is mixed throughout the soundfield and adds a somber and defining tone to the scene. Detail/clarity is first rate as things like the scratching of the pick against the guitar strings or the crinkling of crisp dollar bills is easily discernible. This mix is capable of successfully transitioning from being very raucous to very subtle while positively reinforcing acoustic presence and excellent aural dimension. This surround mix perfectly suited the style of the film and sounded great.
- Within the ring - 42 minute documentary featuring background on the production and cast/crew interviews
- Wrestler round table - 25 minute open discussion where professional wrestling legends talk shop and give their take on the film
- The Wrestler music video - written and performed by Bruce Springsteen
- Digital Copy Bonus Disc - A standard definition version of the film that can be downloaded from a compatible PC/Mac to a portable media device
The Wrestler is a well conceived, directed and strong character driven film that provides an enriching experience that is highlighted by the superb performances by the cast. Its high definition video quality mimics its theatrical presentation and the high resolution DTS-HD MA soundtrack features an abundance of room shaking rock and roll classics that sound superlative. The bonus supplements aren't extensive but do offer interesting insights on the production as well as the chance to get the perspectives of some of professional wrestling's elite. The inclusion of a digital copy bonus disc sweetens the deal for those who like to take movies on the go. I am not sure how this film will hold up under repeat viewings but it is definitely a must see. Highly recommended.
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews
Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS20 1080p High Definition Front Projector
Carada Precision Brilliant White 96" Screen
Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Panasonic DMP-BD55K Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Marantz DV7001 Universal Disc Player
Denon AVR 5308CI THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
Philips TSU9400 Pro Series Touch Panel Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator
Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package