A lot of hype still surrounds Mickey Rourke's 'comeback' film, but The Wrestler (Alliance Canada / Fox Searchlight U.S.) is really just a fine little indie character study, shot wide and grainy, and with an eye trained on nuances rather than grand gestures. Rourke does get beat up a lot, but there's many small moments that keep building his character into a compelling underdog whom we know will never return to the top.

Pity Rourke, co-star Marisa Tomei, director Darren Aronofsky, nor writer Robert Siegel (writer of The Onion Movie!) didn't film any interviews or contribute to a commentary track, but it's still worth viewing for the way Aronofsky captures the quiet and the outright bizarre moments in wrestling.

I don't and never will understand the fascination for what resembles a cartoon show with athletic feats and sometimes balletic movements on steroids. What a chair wrapped in razor wire and wrestling - you know, the Olympic sport - have in common is beyond me, but they co-exist with other props in a carnival sport supposedly adored by the working class.

That's certainly a view Ian Hodgkinson expresses. His character Vampiro is a phenomenon among blue collar workers, and for Hodgkinson, he mined a persona who reportedly was as big in Mexico as Hulk Hogan was in the U.S.

The Thunder Bay born Hodgkinson was profiled in a very brisk documentary by Lee Demarbre called Vampiro: Angel, Devil, Hero (Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada/Sound Venture/Zed Filmworks), and the doc is also being released with Hodgkinson's starring performance in The Dead Sleep Easy (2007), filmed with the same Vampiro crew.

In The Wrestler, the character of The Ram is a beat up soul with few options left except to die on the mat - a similar finale doodled by the filmmakers for the finale of The Dead Sleep Easy; in Vampiro, the contrast is marked: Hodgkinson is determined to reinvent himself and use his skills beyond the wrestling mat - and that's a far more optimistic storyline for wrestler characters that are usually portrayed in crime films as a dumb lugs.

Hodgkinson is cunning, but he's shown as a giving colleague among fellow wrestlers, and that's something you rarely see in films and documentaries set in and about such a surreal sport.



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