PictureThe Wrestler comes to Blu-ray with a solid 1080p High Definition rendition in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.35:1. Now it should be made clear that this movie was never shot with the intention of looking like some pristine Bruckheimer Blockbuster. It's not a shiny, expensive-looking piece of work, it is totally done in the style of a documentary or unglamorous biopic, so whilst the detail level is excellent, there is that camcorder feel throughout it, a sheen of grain pervading most of the movie, all intentional but nonetheless significantly noticeable. Aronofsky is not unfamiliar with this kind of low-budget indie style - most of his work carries this trademark look, from his breakthrough movie Pi to his harrowing Requiem for a Dream (a powerful movie, but one so punishing that I, for one, am never likely to want to sit through it again). Only his marginally disappointing The Fountain utilised Hollywood gloss and prolific effects, and that did not exactly work out well, leaving me wondering how much hope we should have for his upcoming Robocop reboot. Still, when it comes to indie drama like this, he stands out from the crowd, and The Wrestler's documentary feel is perfectly suited to the tough, tragic material. The colour scheme is all natural, mostly dull, cold tones and solemn exteriors, contrasting the sunbed-bronzed bodies and gaudy neon-splashed attire of the ageing wrestlers in their cheap arenas. Black levels are solid, shadows and darkness pervading the movie during the night sequences, only to add to the claustrophobic, almost hopeless feel to the proceedings. This isn't exactly the material that would even show off the differences between Blu-ray and standard DVD, let alone highlight the top end of what the High Definition media is capable of, but it is likely still the best possible presentation of this powerful movie.
SoundAs with the video, the aural accompaniment is also merely a top-of-the-range presentation of what is, effectively, fairly mediocre material. Populated by nuanced, touching conversations that are quietly delivered almost as if they were observed by a fly-on-the-wall, there is nothing here apart from a few bouts in the ring to really get your speakers going. Still, it is all given the best possible presentation on Blu-ray with this DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio track, which does its best to bring home this heart-wrenching tale of life and loss. Dialogue is acutely observed, despite the fact that - as aforementioned - the lulls are fractured by room-shaking strolls into crowd-filled rooms where every body-blow, every heart-beat, is brought home. Effects are mostly given a backseat, except in that self-same arena, and other than the crucial words spoken by Rourke's protagonist, and his wrestling matches, the only other sonic highlight comes with the 80s rock soundtrack, which is skillfully counterpointed by a subtle scoring by long-time Aronofsky collaborator Clint Mansell. Reminiscent of the score for Bodies, a BBC TV show aired a couple of years back, his haunting accompaniment is simply the polar opposite to the boisterous shouty rock renditions that pervade the wrestling scenes. Although again there is nothing here to show off your equipment with, this is still the perfect track for this dramatic material.
ExtrasAlthough this is a two-disc release, the reality is the second disc is just a digital copy of the film for your pc/portable media equipment. And on the first disc, all we get are two real-life-wrestler-related Featurettes: Within the Right (featuring interview footage with the filmmakers and the real wrestlers) and Wrestler Round Table (which is just a big discussion with contributions from ex-pro-wrestlers), as well as the music video for the song Bruce Springsteen wrote and performed (gratis) for the movie. Ideally, I would have liked some input from the main man himself, Mickey Rourke, or at least a Commentary to accompany the film, and these minimal extras focus more on the sport depicted in the film, rather than what the movie was really about.
VerdictThe Wrestler is exactly what it says on the Blu-ray case - “witness the resurrection of Mickey Rourke in Darren Aronofsky's deeply affecting film”. None of this is an exaggeration - this truly is the ultimate comeback story, making me wonder whether one day they'll even make a movie about Rourke's troubled life itself (although I really hope they don't). Haunting and emotionally resonant, the powerhouse performance by Rourke is what it is all about, an Award-winning effort that simply must be seen to be believed. On Blu-ray the material was never going to shine out as something to show off your equipment with, but the top-of-the-range video format and audio specification at least presents the movie in the best possible way, and only the extras really let this Oscar-worthy film down. Without a doubt a film - and a performance - that must be seen. One of the best movies of 2008 and, one of the best performances of the year, this one comes highly recommended as a blind-buy.
“As time goes by, as time goes by, they say 'he's washed up', 'he's finished', 'he's a loser', 'he's all through'. You know what? The only one that's going to tell me when I'm through doing my thing is you people here.”
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