AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Wrestler
Director: Darren Aronofsky (Dir)
Release Date:   17 Nov 2008
Duration (in mins):  105, 109-110
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Cast: Mickey Rourke  (Randy ["The Ram" Robinson], also known as Robin Ramzinski)
  Marisa Tomei  (Cassidy [also known as Pam])
  Evan Rachel Wood  (Stephanie)
 

Summary: Twenty years ago, Randy “The Ram” Robinson had been a giant in the professional wrestling world, performing in the country’s top arenas, and inspiring action figures and video games. Now Randy has difficulty paying the rent on a New Jersey trailer home. Between weekend matches held in low rent halls, he works on a supermarket loading dock. Fit with a hearing aid and with a slight limp, Randy’s body is weakened from the use of steroids, physical abuse and aging, but he still has the loyalty of wrestling fans. He also has the camaraderie of other professional wrestlers, whom he calls “brother” off the mat but feigns animosity in choreographed matches. At work, Randy endures his store manager Wayne’s rude remarks and, when his landlord locks him out for nonpayment of rent, Randy sleeps in his Dodge Ram, where admiring, young neighborhood boys awaken him the next morning. At his next match, Randy is paired with Tommy Rotten, a younger wrestler who will portray the villain in the bout. Before the game, as they plan their moves, called “spots," Randy encourages Tommy, telling him that it is only wrestling politics that determines who gets to be the hero in the matches. During their performance, Tommy knocks Randy flat on the mat, allowing Randy the chance surreptitiously to cut his own forehead with a tiny piece of a concealed razor. With blood dripping down his face, Randy rises triumphantly, eventually climbs onto the ropes then dives into Tommy, in a signature, final move he calls the “Ram Jam.” Afterward, Randy agrees to schedule a twentieth anniversary rematch with Bob, a former wrestler who was known in the 1980s as The Ayatollah and who since has become a successful used car dealer in Arizona. Later, Randy relaxes at Cheeques, the strip club where his favorite dancer, Cassidy, is employed. Seeing a group of young men reject Cassidy, who is in her forties, for being too old, he comes to her defense, then berates them with vulgar language, causing a scene. Afterward, he pays Cassidy for a private dance and she notices the new cut on his forehead. When he shows her other wrestling scars, she recalls the film, The Passion of the Christ , in which “Jesus” is beaten and wounded, and jokes that Randy is a “sacrificial ram.” In preparation for the next match, Randy buys $995 worth of steroids and other drugs from a muscle-bound dealer. After giving himself a shot, Randy works out, visits a hairdresser and a tanning salon, and lastly a hardware store for props such as mouse traps and aluminum pans. His next wrestling adversary is Necro Butcher, who asks Randy before the game if he can attack him with a staple gun. In a barbed wire ring, Randy and his opponent use other items such as broken glass and a spray can of insecticide against each other. Backstage, they are treated by waiting medics, but in the locker room, Randy unexpectedly vomits and falls unconscious. At the hospital, he undergoes a life-saving heart bypass operation, but afterward his doctor warns him to give up wrestling. Randy cancels future wrestling dates, but then feels lonely. Even the young neighborhood boy who plays Randy’s old Nintendo game that was inspired by his 1989 Ram vs. Ayatollah match has lost interest and prefers a new game about soldiers in Iraq. To Cassidy, Randy confides that he does not want to be alone, but, ignoring his interest in her, she encourages him to seek out his long-estranged daughter, Stephanie, who is bitter over his years of neglecting her. Moved by his need to do something special for Stephanie, Cassidy, whose real name is Pam, helps Randy pick out a present for her. Cassidy also agrees to have a drink with Randy, then unintentionally admits she has a nine-year-old son and plans to move to an area with better schools. Although they playfully agree that 1980s music was the best, Cassidy leaves when Randy tries to get closer. Days pass, and Randy feels the loss of his ring persona, as he is increasingly identified by his real name, Robin Ranzinski. When he asks for more work at the store, he is satisfied to man the deli counter, but unhappy that his name tag identifies him as Robin. However, he keeps a good attitude and, declaring his retirement, cancels “The Ram vs. Ayatollah” rematch. Some time later, when Randy presents Stephanie with gifts and shows her an abandoned amusement park where he took her as a child, she agrees to go to dinner with him the following Saturday. Randy again tries to pursue Cassidy, but she tells him that the club and the real world do not mix, and when he persists, states that he is just another customer. Enraged, he throws money at her, demanding that she pretend to like him, prompting a quarrel. Randy attends his next match as an audience member. Afterward, at a bar, a young woman invites him to share drugs and have sex with her. This encounter causes Randy to sleep so late that the next day he misses his dinner date with Stephanie. When he tries to apologize, Stephanie by now has been hurt beyond caring and says she never wants to see him again. On an especially busy day at the deli counter, Randy is besieged by difficult customers, one of whom recognizes him. Frustrated, Randy intentionally bangs his hand on the meat cutter, spattering blood. A rude reprimand from Wayne prompts him to quit, and on the way out, he chants to himself that he is Randy, not Robin. With no encumbrances in his life, he reschedules and preps for The Ram vs. Ayatollah bout. Just as he is about to leave for the match, Cassidy arrives at his trailer. Even though she admits that he is more than a customer, he acts unconcerned and drives off. That evening, Cassidy leaves in the middle of her main stage performance to rush to the match, where, backstage, she asks Randy about his health. When he claims the only place he gets hurt is in the real world, she tearfully tells him she is “really here.” Just then, Randy’s name is announced and he enters the ring, as the crowd cheers. Taking the microphone, Randy tells the crowd that wrestling is all that he does and adds that, when you play hard, you burn the candle at both ends and pay the price by losing everything you love. He admits that he is not all he used to be, but he is still "The Ram" and tells the listeners that they are his family. Moved by the speech, Bob whispers a compliment to Randy then commences the fight. Although surprised by Randy’s urgency, Bob says that he forgot how much fun wrestling is. Soon, however, Bob realizes the strain on Randy’s heart and states that they have given the crowd what is expected. He suggests that Randy perform his final move, but Randy doggedly continues, prompting even the referee to express concern. Unable to watch, Cassidy leaves, and Randy takes one last look at where she had been. After climbing onto the ropes for the “Ram Jam,” Randy, breathing hard, takes a moment to bask in the crowd’s admiration, then dives for his ultimate triumph. 

Distribution Company: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Wild Bunch
Production Company: Protozoa Pictures
Director: Darren Aronofsky (Dir)
  Richard Graves (1st asst dir)
  Brendan Walsh (2d asst dir)
  Matt Lake (2d 2d AD)
Producer: Darren Aronofsky (Prod)
  Scott Franklin (Prod)
  Vincent Maraval (Exec prod)
  Agnes Mentre (Exec prod)
  Jennifer Roth (Exec prod)
  Mark Heyman (Co-prod)
  Ari Handel (Assoc prod)
  Evan Ginzburg (Assoc prod)
Writer: Robert Siegel (Wrt)

Subject Major: Aging
  Fathers and daughters
  Reputation
  Striptease dancers and dancing
  Wrestlers and wrestling
 
Subject Minor: Death and dying
  Drugs
  Friendship
  Heart disease
  Hospitals
  Loneliness
  Mobile homes
  Mothers and sons
  New Jersey
  Operations, Surgical
  Promoters
  Salesclerks
  Sports fans
  Strip clubs
  Supermarkets
  Unrequited love
  Wounds and injuries

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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