As noted, The Resurrection of Jake The Snake released on iTunes today, which you can purchase here. Below is a review of the film by Jason Solomon of the Solomonster Sounds Off podcast. You can check out my review of the first cut of the film from last year here, we will have an updated review of the movie tomorrow.
By Jason Solomon
When The Wrestler was released in 2008, the film provided audiences with a fictional, yet all-too-real, look into the world of professional wrestling. Mickey Rourke earned an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Randy "The Ram" Robinson who ascended to great fame only to find himself clinging to his past glory while struggling with a body that had betrayed him and a fractured relationship with his daughter. The similarities between that character and WWE Hall of Famer Jake "The Snake" Roberts did not go unnoticed.
A new documentary titled The Resurrection of Jake The Snake is as cautionary as it is uplifting, chronicling the rise and fall and subsequent rise again of one of wrestling's most famous, and infamous, personalities. Roberts may well have had something else in common with Rourke, an Oscar nod, after the film was submitted for consideration in the documentary feature category for this year's awards, but it fell short of making the final cut. Still though, after a warm reception at various film festivals, and a limited theatrical release, the movie makes its world premiere on iTunes this week. That alone is an incredible feat for a man written off by many as a lost cause, a legendary figure whose story was headed for a predictably bad ending.
Everyone loves a good comeback story. But before the comeback, there is the fall, and that fall was long and hard for Roberts. Perhaps it is rooted in his upbringing, born to a young mother only 13 years of age, and later the victim of sexual abuse that, by his own admission, helped fuel those dark promos he became famous for. Then came the drug and alcohol addiction that derailed his career and turned his life upside down. He hated what he had become and relied on those vices daily to help distance himself from that reality. The only thing that kept him alive were his estranged children. He couldn't bare to put them through anymore pain than he had already caused.
Then, one day, his old friend "Diamond" Dallas Page paid him a visit at home. Page, who credits Roberts as one of his mentors, found success outside the ring changing people's lives with his popular "DDP Yoga" program. When he and director Steve Yu, along for the ride in one of the film's opening scenes, first see Roberts, they know they have their hands full. Jake was an addict, and addicts lie, cheat and steal (mostly to, on and from themselves). He had ballooned to well over 300 pounds and was barely mobile. At that moment, Roberts had a choice to make. He chooses life over death when he moves in with Page in an effort to turn things around.
One of the most compelling, and inspiring, takeaways from the movie is Jake's desire to triumph over the demons that have tormented him for much of his life. Yes, he slips up more than a few times and has some tense confrontations on camera with both Page and Yu, but at no point does he wave the white flag of surrender. We see flashes of anger, sadness and frustration in some of the film's more candid moments, but he never loses sight of his end goal, summed up nicely in a phrase he repeats often – "My history is not my destiny." He always did know how to turn a phrase.
In the documentary, Roberts struggles to cope with the toll his behavior has taken on his own family over the years, but is fortunate enough to mend fences with many of his children. You can tell just how much that has meant to Jake's recovery, particularly the time he now gets to spend with his grandchildren. Who would've thought they would ever get to see Jake Roberts playing the role of loving, doting grandpa? Talk about a babyface turn.
Unlike Randy "The Ram" at the end of The Wrestler, there is no ambiguity about the title character's fate in The Resurrection of Jake The Snake. Today, Jake finds himself in a far better place both physically and emotionally, staying sober and making regular appearances while spending quality time with his family, something he would have once thought unthinkable.
About that nomination for Rourke, though. What made it surprising wasn't so much his performance, which deserved all of the praise it received and then some, but that he was honored with one at all despite his checkered past in Hollywood and all of the negative stereotypes that persist about pro wrestling and its fans. Of course, you have your elite types who have little or no respect for the genre and those in it, and let's not forget those friends or family members who thumb their nose at that "silly wrestling thing" and anyone who watches it (many of whom are likely closet fans themselves). I bring all of this up because this is the sort of film that can change those attitudes in an instant. Watching Jake get emotional when he learns his fans have helped raise enough money on Indiegogo to pay for a much-needed shoulder operation is powerful stuff. Wrestlers deserve respect every bit as much as any performer on the field, stage or silver screen, and their fans are among the most passionate you will find anywhere.
There may be no Oscar statue for The Resurrection of Jake The Snake, but here's hoping that wrestling fans can help it get the attention it deserves. It's worth it… trust me.