Synopsis: Following his infamous championship as part of a marketing stunt for the film Ready to Rumble, actor David Arquette returns to the professional wrestling ring for a series of matches.
Stars: David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Patricia Arquette, Rosanna Arquette, Ric Flair, Diamond Dallas Page, Christina McLarty Arquette, Jack Perry, Luke Perry, Jerry Lawler
Director: David Darg & Price James
Running Length: 90 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: Over the years, I’ve had a complicated relationship with the Arquette family. For a while, when I was younger and browsing the video store I was totally confused over Rosanna (Draft Day) because the VHS cover of Desperately Seeking Susan made me think she was Madonna and vice versa. What can I say, I was an easily confused child that didn’t see that particular film until I was an adult. It wasn’t until the cult film The Big Blue arrived in 1988 that I finally figured out who she was and by that time I was already into Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors which starred her younger sister, Patricia. Now this Arquette I really didn’t understand. Over time, she’d occasionally pop up in something that would interest me but I largely found her a grating presence…until I saw 2014’s Boyhood in an early, early screening and knew right then and there it would win her an Oscar. Father Lewis was a dependable character actor in so many movies including The China Syndrome and Waiting for Guffman and late sister Alexis also appeared in a fair share of eyebrow raising movies over the course of her career.
The really strange one, and I mean really strange, was David. Now, I first remember him all the way back in the original film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but he’s since become synonymous with both the Scream franchise and his future ex-wife Courteney Cox whom he met while filming the first of the four films (a fifth one is in the planning stages). With the popularity of Scream, Arquette’s film career opened up and he became a go-to person for silly and outright stupid fare…pretty much anything Tom Green or Pauly Shore had turned down because they thought it was beneath them. One such film was 2000’s wrestling comedy Ready to Rumble and that became a calling card pivot point of sorts because it was on that film where the producers of World Championship Wrestling did what some fans consider a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad thing. They decided to fix it so Arquette (a huge wrestling fan in the real world) would be named WCW World Champion as a way to generate publicity for them and for the movie. It didn’t go well. Though Arquette donated all the money WCW had paid him for the stunt, the damage had been done and he became a joke within the wrestling industry and in some Hollywood circles.
The new documentary You Cannot Kill David Arquette takes a novel idea, that David could return to the wrestling world and do it for real this time, and creates something magical both for the viewer and for the actor himself. Before the movie I considered Arquette to be a kind of clown. Yes I admit it and I know that’s not a very nice thing to say sitting here from my perch in midwest MN. Still, he’d fallen into a semi-slump in terms of high profile roles and suffered several medical and pharmaceutical setbacks in recent years and I just couldn’t take him that seriously. At the beginning of the film, it appears that a lot of people were in my camp as well. Even his no-nonsense, supportive wife Christina McLarty Arquette has serious doubts about Arquette’s plan to revive his wrestling character and give it another go in the ring. I mean, the man had a heart attack but still pushes himself far past the limitations of endurance…sometimes just for a gag.
Directors David Darg and Price James follow Arquette over the next year and lets us watch as the actor suffers numerous beatdowns in amateur rings, south of the border lucha libre fights, and makes the rounds on the bloody indie deathmatch circuit. It’s a brutal redemption tour and Arquette gamely puts his body, mind, and spirit to the test time and time again. At first, I was sort of put off by the whole thing and found Arquette to be another washed up star looking for that final four minutes of fast fame. Then, I dunno, something clicked and I saw the concerned people he was surrounding himself with and the sincerity in which he listened to their thoughts. There’s a sadness in him that eventually becomes a winning quality and it transforms him from the outside in. The Arquette at the end of the movie is totally different than the beginning…and I think the same goes for this viewer’s opinion of the actor himself.
With brief appearances from his ex-wife, sisters, and even the late Luke Perry in the kind of misty-eyed cameo you may only realize happened after the fact, You Cannot Kill David Arquette is a very Hollywood documentary that reaches far beyond the confines of the city for its best material. Watching Arquette (also appearing in the recently released Spree) travel around the country to Podunk towns with makeshifts wrestling rings that fall apart on impact, you marvel at his willingness to put himself out there…and to be filmed while doing it. In the end, it’s compulsive and oddly compassionate filmmaking that taps out at just the right time.
Being a wrestling fan for nearly 30 years and having lived through the Monday Night Wars. The night when Arquette became WCW champion was one of the worst nights at that time because the championship had a long history. I remember reading the spoiler and I was like “that’s fucking it. I’m done with WCW” and that did hurt that company even more. Looking back now, it was a terrible decision though Arquette shouldn’t be faulted for what happened. It was WCW’s then head-writer Vince Russo who had the idea thinking “let’s have him win the WCW world championship and we’ll get a lot of attention”. Well, he was right but for the wrong reasons.
2000 was a horrendous year for WCW as it began w/ a lot of turmoil over Bret Hart’s concussion from Bill Goldberg at Starrcade ’99 that December as he couldn’t wrestle while Russo was trying to get former MMA fighter Tank Abbott for a big push that fans didn’t want. Russo was then suspended for a period leading to veteran wrestler/booker Kevin Sullivan to take over the booking much to the dismay of several young wrestlers as four of them in Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and (He Who Must Not Be Named) asked for their release and immediately went to WWE. Sullivan’s booking of having older talent getting over instead of the younger talent did bad numbers leading to Russo returning along with former WCW executive Eric Bischoff for an ill-advised storyline between the old veterans in the Millionaire’s Club against the younger talent known as the New Blood.
WCW in 2000 alone lost more than $60 million and to its new owners in AOL/Time Warner, they wanted to get rid of that company and who can blame them? As much as Ted Turner loved WCW, the AOL/Time Warner merger basically forced Turner out of his empire and in March of 2001. An asshole named Jamie Kellner made the decision to cancel all WCW programming from the Turner network as the company was sold to WWE for $3.5 million.
Arquette’s role in WCW’s demise has been overblown and it’s a shame that he’s been the target of what happened when it’s really Russo at fault. I do want to see this film as I see it as a redemption story for someone who did love wrestling and wanted to do right to those fans. After all, it couldn’t be any worse than what WWE is doing as they’ve had no-talent bums as their world champions who are so bland that they make Arquette look like Nick Bockwinkel.