I went into this – a casual fan of Arquette’s films and (recently returned after a lengthy hiatus) rabid wrestling fan – expecting fun and a further appreciation of Arquette as a man and an artist. I didn’t go into this expecting to tear up no less than 4 times… including 2 full cries, one of which was of the blubbering like a baby variety. This documentary, my third of this year’s fest, was probably my favorite – which is saying something when one of the other docs is the brilliant Morgana. You Cannot Kill David Arquette is the perfect pandemic rut buster – a roller coaster ride of emotion, hope, pain, and triumph.
If you’re unfamiliar with Arquette’s previous foray into professional wrestling, that’s an important place to start. Those of us who grew up immersed in the “Monday Night Wars” remember his brief reign as WCW champion and his several appearances on Monday Nitro. In a crossover promotion, WCW brass Eric Bischoff and lead writer Vince Russo decided to bring in the lifelong wrestling fan and star of upcoming film Ready to Rumble, David Arquette. Russo would later claim that he “killed wrestling forever” when he wrote the storyline of Arquette winning the championship belt. While it wasn’t Arquette’s idea, many people have held against him the title win for years and years. Being a big fan didn’t mean he deserved the belt, he hadn’t earned it in much of the industry’s eyes. Wrestlers and fans alike have hated him for it since. This is an important background to understand, even those uninitiated into the wrestling fan club will experience this part of David’s life strongly enough through the film to grasp just how much it affected Arquette as a fan and as a man.
This film follows Arquette’s journey to train appropriately and return to the ring, this time prepared to do wrestling the right right and change his legacy in the sport. From Diamond Dallas Page’s home to Mexico to a backyard in the middle of absolutely nowhere, Arquette risks life and limb to train and, subsequently, attempt to wrestle his way into changing how the wrestling world looks at him. Whether or not the rest of the wrestling world looks at him differently now, I can’t say, but this wrestling fan has the utmost respect for an awesome guy who worked his ass off to become an awesome in ring performer.
There are surely standout moments here, including but not limited to: getting his ass kicked by a bunch of amateur kids in a backyard wrestling match, his time in Mexico training with luchadors, almost actually dying during a hardcore match, and the final moments of the film (no spoiler here, you’ll need to watch for yourself). Yet, everything in between these moments is equally compelling and provides the glue for a cohesive story of a man desperately seeking redemption and the people in his life.
Now playing at Fantasia, the film releases on VOD later this week. So Canadian friends should head over to the Fantasia site now and everyone else should grab it on their favorite digital platform on August 28th!