In Theaters

In Darren Aronofsky’s punishing The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke looks like a thousand miles of rough road, and that’s when he’s having a good day. His face is puffy and lined with the latticework of tiny scars that are the badge of the pro wrestler (never know when you might have to cut yourself with a razor in order to get the blood flowing for the audience). Rourke’s body is a battered hulk still roped with muscle but clearly on the verge of giving way; one more serious injury and the whole thing will be quits. Tellingly, “Job” is tattooed on one finger. It’s the eyes, though, that really shine with the ruin of his wrecked life…

You might have to go back to Claude Laydu in Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest to see an actor undergoing such exquisite anguish as Will Smith does in Gabriele Muccino’s Seven Pounds. There is suffering and there is suffering. And then there is the suffering evinced by Smith in this film, where he seems to not so much be a guy, apparently widowed and trying to make up for something in his past, but some sort of secular martyr, gasping and bleeding his way through the Stations of the Cross. He plays a man who could conceivably look at The Wrestler and think: Hey, his life’s not so bad…

The Wrestler and Seven Pounds are in theaters now; they’re both discussed in the current (the year’s last!) “The Screener” column at PopMatters.

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