Kurt Loder Reviews 'The Wrestler': 'A Fearless And Heartbreaking Performance'

Mickey Rourke in 'The Wrestler'FROM MTV.COM: Mickey Rourke has taken a lot of punishment over the years, most of it with a puzzling eagerness. In movies of the 1980s, like "Diner," "Angel Heart" and "The Pope of Greenwich Village," his whispery charisma made him one of the most fascinating young actors in film. Then, in the early '90s, he bailed out of the business to become a low-level professional boxer, which is where the punishment came in. Now, at the age of 52, with a face so heavily repaired it resembles an Easter Island import, Rourke has found the role of a lifetime in Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler," in which he plays a has-been grappler who has also taken a lot of punishment but can't stop coming back for more — punishment is his life. It's a fearless and heartbreaking performance: Rourke himself may look lumpy and worked-over, but his charisma remains undented.

His character is Randy Robinson — "The Ram" — a star on the pro-wrestling circuit back in the '80s. Twenty-five years later, he's still pulling on the tights and soaking up steroids, but the matches are sparse these days, and the money minimal — he works a dead-end supermarket job on the side, but still can't make the rent in the dismal New Jersey trailer park where he lives. (New Jersey, with its bare trees and wintry flatlands, is a presiding emotional presence in the picture.) Wrestling has changed, too: Now your opponents come at you with barbed wire and staple guns, and rake dinner forks across your face. It's a young man's game, and Randy, with his bad back, hearing aid and deteriorating ticker, is no longer young.

Continue reading Kurt Loder's review of "The Wrestler" on MTV.com!