Back in the eighties, Mickey Rourke was one of the Hollywood's biggest actors with the likes of 9½ Weeks and Angel Heart under his belt. Sadly, his career did take a bit of a nosedive as we headed into the nineties.
But it was back in 2009 when Rourke really got his career back on track when he landed the central role in The Wrestler, which saw him team up with filmmaker Darren Aronofsky for the very first time.
It was to be a performance that saw Rourke showered in critical acclaim and showed that he was still an acting force to be reckoned with.
For me, The Wrestler was not only one of the best movies of the year, but it was the greatest performance of Rourke's career to date. It also remains my favourite Aronofsky movies; if you haven't seen The Wrestler, it really is a great drama that you cannot afford to miss.
Back in the late '80s, Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Rourke) was a headlining professional wrestler. Now, twenty years later, he ekes out a living performing for handfuls of diehard wrestling fans in high school gyms and community centres around New Jersey. Estranged from his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and unable to sustain any real relationships, Randy lives for the thrill of the show and the adoration of his fans.
However, a heart attack forces him into retirement. As his sense of identity starts to slip away, he begins to evaluate the state of his life, trying to reconnect with his daughter and strikes up a blossoming romance with an aging stripper (Marisa Tomei).Yet all this cannot compare to the allure of the ring and passion for his art, which threatens to pull Randy "The Ram" back into his world of wrestling and he puts everything on the line for one last fight.
The movie may be called The Wrestler and is set in that world, but this is a character driven drama that is powerful and heart-breaking and is driven by a wonderful central performance from Rourke.
This is not a film that pokes fun at this world or those who make a living in it, instead, Aronofsky has delivered a subtle film that looks at the personal of one fighter both in and out of the ring.
Rourke takes on the role of Randy 'The Ram' Robinson, a stubborn and broken man who has destroyed every relationship he ever had, except that with his adoring public, really does tug at the heart strings and you can't help but feel sorry for the fighter who cannot let go. He is a man who has only been a success in the ring and he is desperately trying to hold onto past glories.
I have always like Rourke as an actor and he was just the perfect fit for this character - he embodies the part of Randy so well that you just cannot see anyone else playing this role.
During his career, Aronofsky has delivered some slightly off the wall and divisive movies but The Wrestler is a story that is rooted in reality, which is a welcome change for this filmmaker. It is a simple and straightforward story and Aronofsky has excelled telling it.
The Wrestler opened to critical acclaim and went on to win the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival that year. As well as being a box office success, the film was nominated for two Oscars; Best Actor for Rourke and Best Supporting Actress for Marisa Tomei. For me, it really should have been in the Best Picture mix.