From a loose description, You Cannot Kill David Arquette sounds like a joke. Then you see the film and realize how deep it really is. The subject is how the Scream actor attempts to establish himself in the world of professional wrestling. Obviously, this is a documentary that's only for wrestling buffs or hardcore Arquette fans, right? Not entirely. Directors David Darg and Price James have made a poignant examination of a celebrity attempting to heal himself from a sense of guilt he's been carrying around for years.
Here's the backstory: In 2000, Arquette starred in a Warner Bros. wrestling comedy called Ready to Rumble. To promote the film, he was invited to participate in a WCW wrestling match. The decision was made to surprise the audience by having him win the World Heavyweight Championship. To say that didn't go over well with fans would be an understatement. A massive backlash occurred, and Arquette perhaps unfairly received the brunt of the criticism. He'd inadvertently tarnished what the World Heavyweight Championship meant to WCW enthusiasts. Doing that is something he'd long felt bad about because he genuinely loves wrestling and never meant to do anything that would harm its reputation.
You Cannot Kill David Arquette is consequently a redemption tale. Recognizing that the stunt likely hurt his acting career given the scarcity of roles coming his way, he decides to train and enter the wrestling world for real this time. The film follows him as he meets resistance to this idea from wrestling promoters/executives who don't want a repeat of the 2000 fiasco. To start off and prove his seriousness, Arquette has to appear at cheesy events like a backyard match attended by only a dozen or so people. Through persistence – and a willingness to get his ass kicked mightily – he climbs the ladder, booking better gigs until finally getting another shot at the big time. The crowds remain skeptical, so the challenge is to win them over.
You have to admire Arquette in a weird way. One of the most startling scenes finds him having florescent lightbulbs smashed over his bare back during a match. He's injured multiple times, in fact. We sense that taking part in this is a form of self-flagellation. The guy is punishing himself for the sin he believes he committed. The more this approach works, the more the actor commits to it. Perhaps because of their previously-held resentment, folks initially seem to like watching him get pummeled. After a while, though, it becomes cool to root for Arquette. He proves his dedication.
There is a lot of wrestling footage in You Cannot Kill David Arquette, so if that isn't your bag, prepare to see a ton of it. That said, the best sports movies are never about the sport itself, a truism that certainly applies here. Arquette was a joke in the wrestling world until he rose again. This transformative film, combined with his recent stellar turn in Mope, could reignite his acting career, too.
Bring on the Arquette-aissance!
out of four
You Cannot Kill David Arquette is rated R for language throughout, some bloody images, and nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 31 minutes.