Justin Lee Collins – The Wrestler Review: JLC Smackdown

August 13, 2009 by  
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JUSTIN LEE COLLINS – THE WRESTLER: Thursday 13th August, Sky1, 9pm Alert Me

What an anomaly Justin Lee Collins is.

All beardy and dishevelled with a prominent beer belly, yet proving irresistible to so many ladies. He appeals to the cavewoman (or man) in all of us. Anyone who yells “good times� so often and seemingly without irony should be irritating, but on JLC it just works.

Ever the entertainer, The Wrestler sees Justin Lee Collins’ latest excuse to dress up, this time in shiny spandex. The show is the first in the series that sees the hairy Bristolian take on some extreme occupations.

He gets 4 weeks to train as a Luchador, or Mexican Wrestler. Eventually he will have to hold his own in the ring against a professional as the spectacular sport of Lucha Libre comes to London’s Roundhouse.

Problem is, he just isn’t luchador material. He says he’s as “aggressive as a newborn kitten�, and that he lacks fitness and competitiveness. Everything you need to be a wrestler. Oh, and he’s dead scared of getting hurt.

So, Justin, why are you doing it?

He heads down to the home of Lucha Libre, Mexico City for some intensive training. It’s here we get to see the sport in all its pantomime glory. It’s a mesmerising and hilarious performance.

The moves are brutal and acrobatic, almost graceful, and there are characters and everything. There are the nice guys, or “tecnicos� the ones that play by the rules, and then there are the bad guys, the “rudos�. Justin fancies himself as a rudo.

We watch him forge a character for his rudo wrestling alter ego, meeting luchadors on the way and learning the rites of Lucha Libre. He may not have the bulk to be a great wrestler, but he’d be damned if he can’t create a good character.

His mentor in Mexico City is Cassandro, a transvestite wrestler or “exotico�, who puts him through a punishing daily routine of running, lunges and body slams which play before our eyes. Depending on your views on JLC, watching the sequence is either going to be painful, gratifying or vaguely erotic. Or all three.

It looks positively gruelling, and might just provoke some mechanic-style sharp inhales as we witness the sheer pain he is subjected to. Every slap, every headlock, every drop of blood is shared with the viewer. A comical subtext thankfully remains.

Justin Lee Collins succeeds again with The Wrestler. His round-up of the vibrant sport is easy viewing, a good laugh and you’ll even learn something.

Mad props to JLC.

Leonie Mercedes

For a different breed of on-screen combat, check out our review on Legend of the Seeker. Fancy more of the JLC? Read our review of Bring Back… Star Trek here.