NOTE: Here is my review from Soda & Telepaths that was posted back on September 6th, 2021
In the year 2000, as part of promotion for the film Ready to Rumble, David Arquette did a series of wrestling appearances with the WCW and ended up taking home the WCW World Title. Fans of wrestling were not exactly happy about this, many dubbing it one of the worst moments to happen in the sport. This, combined with a serious downturn in Arquette’s film work, led to several decades essentially being a punchline within the industry.
You Cannot Kill David Arquette follows the titular actor as he decides to finally put an end to the jokes and return to wrestling for real in order to try and win the respect of the fanbase, while also dealing with a number of serious issues in his family life. The film follows David Arquette through his rigorous training schedule, his assorted independent wrestling matches and even the infamous deathmatch against Nick Gage that put him in hospital. Throughout it all the film keeps asking, can David Arquette ever be taken seriously as a wrestler?
You Cannot Kill David Arquette wisely doesn’t pretend that everyone is fully aware of the backstory between the actor and the sport of wrestling, which is great for people like me who could name exactly 2 wrestlers that aren’t named “The Rock”. The film very quickly gets everyone up to speed with the strange history of the 2000 WCW tournament that led to the star of Eight Legged Freaks taking home one of the most coveted titles in wrestling. Once everyone’s up to speed, the film approaches its biggest hurdle and proceeds, trying desperately to clear it.
The big hurdle that You Cannot Kill David Arquette runs into is that it is trying to portray David as an underdog, while he’s living in his mansion with his wife and kids as a member of the Arquette Family which is one of the best known acting families in the industry. There’s a giant issue there and the film does possibly the only thing it can do to really make us see him as an underdog… watch David Arquette get his ass handed to him the second he steps into the ring.
It’s the smart decision and You Cannot Kill David Arquette plays it so well, everything for the first half hour of the film is almost designed to make it seem like David will be able to walk in and have everyone go easy on him in an innocent backyard match… yeah that notion died right around the time the second chair was smashed into his spine. From that moment on, he’s the underdog the film needs him to be in order to work. From that moment on, it doesn’t matter how rich and famous he might seem, we’re shown in no uncertain terms just how out of his depth he truly is and how hard he’ll need to work to make this happen.
Along the way You Cannot Kill David Arquette not only follows Arquette’s return to the ring, but also incorporates several moments with real wrestlers who make it clear to everyone (both fan and civilian) just how important this sport is to them and how even they can see the fight in this Hollywood actor. As they slowly come around to accepting him, it makes it easy for the audience to cheer him on. It’s that willingness of Arquette to show himself at his most vulnerable that makes the film so fascinating. The veneer of stardom is shattered in favour of just witnessing this guy who wants to prove himself and it’s absolutely fascinating.
Most of the power of You Cannot Kill David Arquette comes from how willing David is to just let the world see him at the lowest he can be, as a producer he could’ve easily had this film cleaned up to present him in the best light but he is willing to not only let everyone see him fail but see him almost die for this thing he loves. During the infamous brutal match with Nick Gage we’re shown how dangerous that fight got, the crew followed him to hospital while he’s bleeding from the neck and clearly in some distress. The film doesn’t shy away from the harsh reality of what David risked to make this comeback to a sport he loves.
That love of wrestling is infectious, even as someone who really doesn’t know much about the sport it’s easy to feel the adoration love that David has for the art of wrestling. Seeing him getting emotional over getting a mask from a Mexican wrestler or proudly showing a fight off to his kids really makes it easy to root for him to somehow get back in the fans’ good graces. You understand that even he gets that the winning of the championship belt in 2000 was not a good look for him or for WCW, but you also understand that he wants to make things right with those who respect the sport as much as he does.
You Cannot Kill David Arquette had an almost impossible task, to make a famous actor into an underdog worthy of our sympathy while also showing the hard work that goes into becoming a professional wrestler. Somehow it pulls that off, creating a film that’s compelling and exhilarating from start to finish. Did David Arquette prove that he deserved that original title belt? Probably not, but by the end of You Cannot Kill David Arquette he certainly proved that he loves the sport enough to earn a spot in the ring… just maybe not across from Nick Gage again.