Greetings again from the darkness. I’ll admit to knowing very little about professional wrestling, so this was the first I had heard about actor David Arquette’s scandal from nearly 20 years ago, as he promoted his movie READY TO RUMBLE (2000). Documentarian David Darg and Video director Price James collaborate here as co-directors to deliver a documentary on one of the strangest, most off-the-wall stories I’ve ever seen … and one that fits well with the reputation of the professional wrestling world.
In a sport that thrives on good guy vs bad guy, David Arquette became the most hated man in wrestling. The power brokers in the industry determined a publicity stunt with his becoming WCW Champion would lead to a boon for the business. The fan and wrestler backlash was harsh and severe, and Arquette claims it made him persona non grata in both the sport and in Hollywood, though his math doesn’t add up. He discloses his “10 years of rejections” for acting roles, when the wrestling brouhaha goes back 20 years. And on top of that, he has worked pretty consistently over those two decades – albeit mostly in projects that don’t appeal to mainstream audiences.
So all these years later, here comes David Arquette in his attempt to re-enter the world of wrestling and gain respect from those that think he disrespected their beloved sport. The temptation here is to label the documentary and Arquette a joke, but he seems so sincere in his desire to find his way, that we catch ourselves following his journey with interest. And it’s not always easy to do so. There is one moment in particular: Arquette is wearing a purple bedazzled wizard cape while sitting on a horse and vaping, when he states, “I’m sick of being a joke”. Umm.
Arquette is likely best known for his role in the SCREAM movies, of which there were four between 1996 and 2011, and a fifth is on the way for 2021. Or perhaps he is best known as the ex-husband of “Friends” star Courteney Cox, with whom he has a daughter. Then again, maybe his fame is derived from being part of a family entrenched in entertainment. This includes his acting sisters Rosanna, Patricia and Alexis (who died in 2016), brother Richmond, father Lewis (a well-established character actor), and grandfather Cliff, who created the popular character Charley Weaver.
We meet Arquette’s wife Christine McLarty (who looks like she could be Courteney Cox’s younger sister), a career news reporter who is now a film producer, and she seems to share our confusion on why David is pursuing this at age 46 – after a heart attack, which resulted in stints and blood thinners. When he speaks of his previous alcoholism, anxiety, and other mental and physical health issues, we hope this is his way of improving his health. However, as we follow him on the road, we realize, it really is about the wrestling and redemption.
The journey leads to a “backyard wrestling” match where amateurs looking to humiliate the actor pretty much beat the heck out of him. It’s at this point where he decides to train, and heads off to a facility in Virginia, followed by Cancun and Tijuana street wrestling, segments that prove quite entertaining. The pride of a wrestling match is mentioned, and we watch a ROCKY segment where Arquette chases a chicken, and is called “crazy white boy” while a Spanish version of “The Last Kiss” is played. I warned you this was a strange one.
At times we can’t help but think this is a hoax in the same way in which Joaquin Phoenix parlayed his acting “retirement” into I’M STILL HERE, a mockumentary on his pursuit of a hip hop career. The difference is that Arquette really trains and really wrestles, ending with a match at the “Legends of Wrestling” in Detroit against Ken Anderson. This is a film that feels like a gag when it starts, but very real by the end. It’s not enough to motivate me to go back and watch some of those terrible David Arquette movies, but it’s enough to tip my cap to a man pursuing respect and redemption.
Available at Drive-ins on August 21, 2020 and VOD on August 28, 2020
watch the trailer: