New Releases: You Cannot Kill David Arquette (2020)-Reviewed

(Image Courtesy of Super LTD.)

It's 2000. David Arquette is four years removed from Scream and from appearing on the cover of Vanity Fair's Hollywood issue. On said issue, he's positioned alongside soon-to-be major stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith and Matthew McConaughey. In the four years since, he may not have reached the heights of those three but he's still seen as a bankable leading man. With his new film Ready to Rumble, Arquette is finally combining one lifelong passion with another, acting with wrestling. Though he's nowhere near as monstrously large as legends like Hulk Hogan or Randy Savage, Arquette has always wanted to get in the ring. With his film's press tour in full effect, he begins appearing in WCW. 

WCW, at one time, was the biggest wrestling promotion in the world. Outselling and outperforming WWE (then WWF) in the ratings, the company had seen years of unprecedented success. By 2000, disastrous storytelling, money management and decision making had sent WCW to the brink and they were quickly running out of ideas. Why not bring Hollywood star David Arquette in to work a few matches? His film has some WCW stars, it makes all the sense in the world to promote it. Seems harmless, no? The fans will pop, his movie gives them buzz, they give his movie some buzz, it's a sound business move.

(Image Courtesy of Pro Wrestling Illustrated)

Then David Arquette won the World Heavyweight Championship.

To say that this was unpopular is an understatement. While the outcome of a wrestling match is predetermined, the championships still mean everything to the wrestlers and fans. 95% of wrestlers work their entire careers, destroying their bodies and still never touch championship gold. So for an actor to come in and win the belt was not only infuriating, it was insulting. Fans were pissed, wrestlers were disgusted and even Arquette himself didn't think it was a good idea.

Seen as the moment that killed WCW, the decision had ramifications for Arquette as well. His decision to jump into wrestling was widely mocked by the industry in which he made a living. Roles dried up, his drinking got worse and almost two decades later, he had a heart attack that almost took his life. Viewed by many as a joke, broken and beaten, Arquette was as close fading away as one could get.

But here's the thing.

You Cannot Kill David Arquette.

(Image Courtesy of Super LTD.)

Taking place over a year and change, You Cannot Kill David Arquette, follows the actor and former world champion as he embarks on a path to redemption. He's recently sober and the one thing that still eats away at him is the fact that his only foray into wrestling was a disaster. Despite the recent heart attack and the many protests from his wife Christina and his family, Arquette decides that he wants to get back in the ring. That he needs to get back in the ring. And so, we follow him on his journey to not only rectify a perceived wrong but to regain a part of himself that was left in WCW a long time ago.

What's immediately striking is how profoundly heartbreaking David Arquette's journey has been. Wrestling clearly means the world to him, perhaps even more so than acting. Throughout the film, he professes a deep love for the sport and an even deeper pain that his mark on it has universally been derided. His mere presence at a Legends of Wrestling event sparks so much fury from some of wrestling's elder statesmen that he's thrown out after an altercation backstage. He's seen as an interloper. A guy that came in with no training, no blood, sweat & tears and took one of the most prestigious prizes the sport had to offer. It doesn't matter how much he loves the sport, to them he's a walking insult.

To be honest, I had that same opinion of David Arquette for many years. I always kind of assumed what everyone else did. It wasn’t until I saw a photo of him last year, covered in blood, that I began to understand that wrestling runs deep for him. That photo, from a horrifying Death Match against Nick Gage, was just one piece of his comeback but it’s the moment that got the most attention from wrestling fans and the mainstream press. That match legitimately almost ended Arquette’s life after his jugular was slashed by a fluorescent light. But as the film continues to remind you, You. Cannot. Kill. David. Arquette. That isn’t just a mantra in regard to his physical form either because his spirit is equally indestructible. 

As the film chronicles his comeback and we crisscross from training with luchadors in Mexico to working a show in the middle of nowhere in the Deep South, Arquette’s dedication never wavers. Call it obsession, call it misguided, call it stupidity, to me, it’s genuinely inspiring to see him confront the demons of his past and body slam each and everyone of them. There’s a tenacity to David Arquette that’s almost mesmerizing. One stand out moment, early on in his journey back, is while he’s training with the luchadors. Forgoing the traditional ring, these guys put on shows in the middle of stopped traffic with nothing but a folding chair and a ladder. Arquette is hundreds of miles from Hollywood and anything resembling traditional wrestling and yet he takes it all in stride and joins in. As he hits a crossbody leap from a ladder onto the masked men in street, you’re witness to one of the most magical moments you’ll see all year. 

In fact, the entire film is a magic trick. It goes beyond being a documentation of one man’s journey to acceptance and respect and ends up being a beautiful and heartbreaking film about mental health and the things we do to cope. At a certain point, you (and Arquette’s loved ones) begin to question how much of this is about his love for the sport and how much of this is a man trying to mask trauma. As he subjects his body and mind to beating after beating, you genuinely start to worry that he’s not going to make it. Even though you know a David Arquette is very much alive, you can’t kill him after all, the lines begin to blur. As a history of being abused is unfurled by his sisters Patricia and Rosanna, you start to see that it isn’t just about love to him. It’s about a perennial desire to prove himself. To prove that he belongs. It’s devastating. 

That doesn’t mean it’s all pain and no glory.  Whether it’s love for the sport and love for his family, Arquette has so much love to give. He speaks about Miss Elizabeth returning to Macho Man after their storyline split and how much that meant to him. Without going into spoilers, there’s a beautiful moment that mirrors that, that will bring you to tears. Like all great sports movies about the underdog, it’s an astonishingly moving film above all else. 

If anything holds it back, it’s that you almost wish that the film were a little longer. It often feels like it glosses over much of his comeback and opts instead to hit the biggest moments and move on. But that’s just a minor quibble with a genuinely great film. Equal parts devastating and inspiring, it’s one of the best films of the year. David Arquette went through hell to rewrite his history. He almost died to rewrite his history. You can’t kill him. You can’t kill his spirit. And through massive amounts of blood, sweat and tears, whatever preconceived ideas you have about the man will be erased. And you will remember the name David Arquette. 

-Brandon Streussnig