(Paul Lynch, 1978)
This isn't just "The Hard Part Begins" with wrestling, although the similarities are obvious. There's no looking back for these hard-living road warriors, no soul-searching about the lives they left behind; new recruit Brian Patrick Clarke ditches his buddies without a second thought to join this self-contained, portable subculture. Their regrets center on the chances they missed, and their relegation to the small-time venues while high-rolling sleazeball John McFayden locks them out of the arena circuit. They're a quirky, gregarious bunch, and the performances are wonderfully sympathetic; Micheline Lanctot may be the true anchor of the movie as the world-weary love interest, but that's not to slight muscle man William Smith in a career performance. Even the secondary characters are detailed and fascinating - check out the midget wrestlers - as are the insights into the stagecraft and economics of the wrestling world. And though as always I could live without the training montage, the feel-good ending is justified by the litany of horrors that the protagonists endure in the lead-up. In fact, the way the climactic uplift impinges on the familiar down-and-out stuff makes this a pivotal Canadian movie, and the best Paul Lynch effort I've seen to date.