Fantasia 2020: You Cannot Kill David Arquette

“I want to clear my name and through the process, honor wrestling.” It’s the year 2000, and David Arquette is on the promotional circuit for his new film, Ready to Rumble, a minor comedy of pro wrestling adulation. To promote his film, he steps into the squared circle for the World Championship Wrestling promotion. Backstage, the managers give him the news: that night, he is going to win the title. An anomaly in the wrestling world, his match went over badly with marks and wrestlers alike — a blight on the history of a belt once held by prominent historic figures like Hulk Hogan and Sting. As he lynched the pin, the announcers asked, “what does this mean for the future of WCW?”

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You Cannot Kill David Arquette. Dir. David Darge & Price James.

In short order, the whole organization would be sold off. A true jump-the-shark moment for wrestling as a whole, the event had far-reaching unintended consequences beyond the ring. It cast a dark shadow over David Arquette’s career. He could no longer find meaningful work and within his two greatest passions, acting and wrestling, he was no longer taken seriously. You Cannot Kill David Arquette elucidates a true redemption story, as a once famed actor has spent the last ten years wallowing in Hollywood, unable to land parts, and turns his focus toward proving that he’s worth something in the ring.

What initially sounds like an incredibly silly premise gives way to a straight-faced Arquette. He is deadly serious about this. The documentary highlights his great passion for the sport. With a kind of manic, nervous energy, it’s as though it’s his true calling. The actor puts his mind and body on the line. Completely committed, he runs the gamut of wrestling circuits — getting the hell beat out of him at a backyard event, where the opposition harbors resentment and takes it all out in the ring. He travels to Mexico and performs in the streets in front of stopped cars for spare change. Within the system of the Luchadors, he finds true inner peace and unlocks what it takes to become a legitimate fighter.

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You Cannot Kill David Arquette. Dir. David Darge & Price James.

It turns into a battle of addiction. David Arquette has been tormented by spiritual demons and anxiety for a long time. His anxious energy to turn toward wrestling comes across as a symptom of an addicted spirit. A craving for pain, and then adoration. Medically, wrestling never seems to be in his best interest. His doctors say it’s a bad idea. But the man is on a mission. To some extent, the story becomes about his personal victory of internal adversity, a champion of the human spirit, if not wrestling gold.

The story is always fair and self-critical. It understands the actor but is able to derive sympathy from his life. We get a whimsical journey through the life of a missing Hollywood presence. It’s joyous when we get to spend time with the Arquettes, to see how David is living with his gigantic outdoor chairs and massively oversized tennis rackets. We begin to understand exactly the psychology of the wounded star, that he has always been a big kid, and this is a true passion and far more than a misplaced publicity stunt for the movies. Joining The Wrestler (2008) and Fighting with My Family (2019), You Cannot Kill David Arquette is a breezy, fun wrestling picture with a big heart. One thing is for sure: David Arquette is the real deal.

6/10

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