On 26 April 2000, actor David Arquette won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Despite reservations from Arquette himself, the victory was devised as a publicity stunt to promote the wrestling movie Ready to Rumble, in which he was starring.
Somewhat predictably, the fans did not like the idea of an untrained Hollywood actor winning one of the most prestigious titles in wrestling, feeling that it cheapened the sport. As a result, Arquette has spent the best part of two decades being despised by fans of the sport he grew up loving.
A pariah in wrestling circles, Arquette also attributes his stint in the WCW as the reason his acting career stalled. Although, in fairness, his filmography would suggest he has, in fact, worked quite regularly over the last twenty years. Highlights including the very underrated Eight Legged Freaks and a supporting role in the excellent horror western Bone Tomahawk. Nevertheless, between the WCW and his most famous role, as the lovably inept Deputy Dewey in the Scream franchise, Arquette has found it hard to be taken seriously in the intervening years.
So, David Arquette sets out to put things right. Tired of being hated and tired of being a laughing stock (his words), he vows to get back in the ring for real. To train and fight and to erase the memory of a comical victory, in favour of the real thing. To earn the respect he never earned previously.
Directed by David Darg and Price James, You Cannot Kill David Arquette is a hugely entertaining documentary and you don’t have to be a fan of either wrestling, or Arquette’s previous work, to find enjoyment in this unusual story. The film is helped greatly by the fact that Arquette is a really likeable chap. He is perhaps a little eccentric at times, but comes across as a decent bloke, with a genuine passion for the sport and an unshakable enthusiasm to do things the right way.
Not everyone shares this enthusiasm, though, at least to begin with. His family are sceptical and his daughter is embarrassed. At forty-six years old, with a recent heart attack in his past and struggles with both anxiety and sobriety, Arquette’s doctor also thinks getting back into the ring might not be the best idea. But as the title assures us, David Arquette Cannot Be Killed, so the trifling matter of professional medical advice will not deter him.
We watch Arquette’s wild journey back to the ring, taking him from suburban backyard matches to the streets of Tijuana. He meets upcoming luchadores and wrestles in front of traffic for spare change. He puts in the hard work, wrestles in Death Matches, gets bruised and bloodied and beaten to a pulp, before coming back for more.
There are a few moments in the second half of the film where a little more explanation is needed, particularly as we jump forward in time significantly. But with a spry 91-minute run time, the film knows not to outstay its welcome and this minor loss of clarity is its only fault.
Arquette’s atonement in the ring is catharsis. A way to shake off the typecasting and a means to prove something to himself as much as the haters. This leaves us with a unique, interesting and genuinely entertaining documentary – one of the year’s best so far.