Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mickey Rourke countdown -- one day left

Mickey Rourke is up for Best Actor at Sunday's Academy Awards for his powerful portrayal of Randy the Ram Robinson in "The Wrestler." Win or lose, we know Rourke can act like a wrestler. But how many wrestlers can really act?

Well, there's Duane Johnson, better known as The Rock. He's has significant roles in "The Scorpion King," "The Mummy Returns," "Walking Tall," "Gridiron Gang" and "Get Smart," among other films and TV shows. And while he's not bad as an actor, neither his performances nor the films in which he's worked are awards-worthy.

And there's Hulk Hogan, who's been in "Rocky III," "Mr. Nanny," and "Suburban Commando," among others. But again, while highly entertaining, no one has taken the Hulkster's acting or his movies all that seriously, and for good reason.

Rowdy Roddy Piper may have given the best serious dramatic performance by a current or former professional wrestler when he starred in John Carpenter's "They Live" (1988).

Piper plays a construction worker trying to find work in tough economic times who gradually comes to understand the society is being controlled by non-human aliens. Piper's performance isn't quite on the level of Mickey Rourke's and "They Live" isn't in "The Wrestler's" class but Piper is believable, in a serious role, and the film, despite having an aura of intentional camp, has a well-deserved cult following because its underlying themes about threats to our humanity are as compelling today as they were 21 years ago.

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