Darren Aronofsky’s new movie The Wrestler “touches on love, money, dreams and death in a way that will pile-drive you through the mat,” said Joshua Rothkopf in Time Out New York. The film (watch the trailer here, via YouTube) stars Mickey Rourke as a washed-up, down-on-his-luck former pro-wrestler attempting to put his life back together. It’s an “astounding career revision” for Rourke, and Aronofsky, who was “nearly a goner with his ludicrous The Fountain, rebounds” just “as strongly”—The Wrestler may be “2008’s best” film.

But it’s not a perfect movie, said Anthony Lane in The New Yorker. “The pathos of personal ruin is an established trope, and the trick” is to “stop it from sliding into the sentimental—Aronofsky doesn’t always succeed in this.” But The Wrestler, “like its hero, manages to yank itself back into shape”—and that “is mostly due to Rourke.”

The Wrestler “induces a state of masochistic ecstasy,” said David Edelstein in New York, “the oneness with the universe that comes from being pummeled and cut and watching one’s blood fly onto the canvas.” And despite how “choreographed, the pounding is ferocious, and we see the world through” the lead character’s “swimming perceptions.” It’s just too bad that the movie as a whole “isn’t as world-shattering as those bouts.”

But “certain movies about losers have a special, desperately moving appeal,” said Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly, and The Wrestler “could touch a chord in audiences the way On the Waterfront and Rocky did—it has that kind of lyrical humanity.” It’s “rare” to find a movie that functions as a “fairy tale” and a “bravura work of art.”