Friday, October 12, 2012

The Naked Man (1998)

Dr. Edward Bliss, Jr. (Michael Rapaport) is a chiropractor/part-time professional wrestler. Bliss uses “The Naked Man” as a ring name, and Bliss has a strong passion for wrestling. But his wife urges him to leave the wrestling business behind, because she refuses to accept pro wrestling as a real career. Although, making a major career choice isn’t Bliss’ biggest problem. Bliss’ parents and his wife are murdered by a crazy quadriplegic with crutches (which actually turn out to be machine guns) and an Elvis Presley impersonator. Sticks Varona (the quadriplegic with machine gun crutches) and his body guard/personal muscle (the Elvis impersonator) are two gangsters, who are hell bent on controlling all the pharmacy stores in their sights. Bliss’ father (the owner of a small pharmacy store) didn’t want to give into the cruel gangsters, but his stubbornness would come back to bite him, because Varona refused to take no for an answer. Bliss completely snaps after the murders, and he actually begins to believe his pro wrestling persona. Bliss is hell bent on revenge, and no one is safe, as he destroys everything in his path, during a murderous rampage.

I have always been a HUGE fan of The Coen Brothers, and Ethan was one of the co-writers for the screenplay here, so this film became an instant must-see for me. The Naked Man is a very quirky comedy, and this film does feature its fair share of oddball and eccentric characters. It took a while, but as this film progressed, the humor began to grow on me, and this film is filled with some hilarious moments. Also, I absolutely loved the pro wrestling material in this film. This is a comedy film, so of course, everything isn’t supposed to be taken so seriously. I did laugh during the scenes that featured pro wrestling material, but this film didn’t try to poke fun at wrestling. Sure, the matches feel whacky most of the time (things get pretty serious, when Bliss finally loses his mind), but this is a comedy, so you have to expect this type of approach. You will see Michael Rapaport discuss his wrestling character in detail, you will see the wrestlers discuss details during the matches (calling moves, working out a strategy, etc.), and adding a promoter was a nice touch here. This film really doesn’t go into an in-depth explanation about pro wrestling, because there’s more to the story than wrestling here. And you won’t see a serious tone for pro wrestling, because this isn’t a black comedy, but for the most part, The Naked Man does represent pro wrestling in a tasteful way. Any true fan can enjoy the material used here, and The Naked Man can be a real treat for wrestling fans.

The Naked Man is a bizarre and quirky comedy, but I couldn’t stop laughing, once I adjusted to the humor. This film is well written, the acting is very solid, and Michael Rapaport does a fine job with the lead role. At times, it did feel like he was carrying this film, but the rest of the cast did provide some very believable performances. The Naked Man was one of the more unique comedies I’ve seen over the years, and I’m so happy I FINALLY found this film!

Final Rating: 7/10

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