Blair Russell’s review published on Letterboxd:
I'll note right away that my opinion on this movie is colored by my familiarity not just with professional wrestling, but the years in the past when I attended the sort of independent wrestling events held in the likes of VFW halls and National Guard armories and some of the real life wrestlers in the film-including current WWE superstar Cesaro-I saw in such a setting. Of course this was first watched theatrically back when it was first released and later was rewatched as a rental... but that was more than 10 years ago so it was LONG overdue for me to talk about this here; we can thank Amazon for putting this on Prime for me.
Most people may not remember or even know, but originally NIC CAGE was going to play Randy the Ram; for reasons unknown to me, Mickey Rourke got the part instead... but I couldn't imagine anyone else playing the role as excellently as what was immortalized on screen. Mickey's real life problems in Hollywood and the viewer's knowledge of this only adds to the portrayal. Randy the Ram was an 80's wrestling star who like some in the industry has fallen on hard times and besides wrestling on local shows and having to work a “real” job, he is a chronic screw-up **and** his health has gone downhill. The movie is a stone cold bummer and that has to be one of the reasons why some pro wrestlers hate this movie-every line of work has chronic F'ups who are cautionary tales... but pro wrestling is a weird niche form of entertainment and the wacky human beings in it are quite protective of it.
The story is engrossing-no matter how depressing it all is-is filmed intimately by Darren Aranofsky & has tremendous performances from Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood-even if you are not a fan of pro wrestling this movie should be quite appealing. In terms of “modern wrestling”, that hasn't been appealing to me in many years. Stupid storylines, matches that look phony and overly choreographed (because they are), stupid “comedy”, and during this pandemic the WWE has turned science fiction, completely divorcing themselves from reality. Some places actually do have that “death match” crap which was portrayed here... where The Ram and that tall bearded guy known as THE NECRO BUTCHER used staple guns, panes of glass, barb wire, and other weapons and it's a freak show rather than actual wrestling. Don't even get me started on two of the worst gimmicks in pro wrestling history, that being Orange Cassidy and The Fiend...
At least there's no shortage of actual good wrestling from the past to stream, and there are many people around today that take the piss out of how bad the modern product is.