Who knew that this summer’s greatest superhero story would be David Arquette?
Seriously, I didn’t see it coming.
The new doc, You Can’t Kill David Arquette, reintroduces Arquette himself as a man burdened by the past. Back in 2000, with his wrestling comedy Ready to Rumble about to come out, Arquette was invited to participate in a brief storyline on WCW (World Championship Wrestling) to help promote the film. As a long-time fan of industry, he was thrilled to be a part of the world. However, when the company decided to briefly crown him champion, Arquette was quickly branded the most hated man in wrestling by fans who felt he was an outsider. With You Can’t Kill, Arquette attempts a rocky return to the world of sports entertainment, determined to redeem himself to others and reclaim his self-respect.
Directed by David Darg and Price James, You Can’t Kill David Arquette is both a love letter to professional wrestling and a redemption of sorts for Arquette. Darg and James follow Arquette from the local backyard to the underground wrestling circuit of Tijuana in an effort to shine a spotlight on the earnestness of an industry that is considered a joke by man. Though they’ll likely never perform in front of 20, 000 fans, these warriors are no less committed than their big-league counterparts, fighting every night for love of the show. Without question, however, the most endearing aspect of the film is Arquette himself who understands his place as an outsider yet passionately pursues his dream as a pro wrestler.
Of course, every great hero story needs a villain and, in You Can’t Kill, this is personified by an obsessive fan culture that seemed to crush his spirit outside of the ring. In some ways, the film feels like an apology to diehard fans for his involvement in the highly controversial decision to crown him WCW Champion nearly 20 years ago. As a long-time fan of pro wrestling, Arquette has always held the athletes that put their bodies on the line for the sake of sports entertainment in the highest of esteem. However, after being crowned champion, fans turned on him personally. Viewed as an outsider who was mocking their passion for the sake of promoting his film, Arquette himself became demonized by the very community that he was attempting to celebrate. Like other pop culture icons, wrestling fans can be vicious when they feel that they’ve been crossed and their misplaced loathing at Arquette took a toll on him emotionally.
With You Can’t Kill, Arquette seems to want to offer an apology for the past while also bravely standing up to those who felt he wasn’t taking things seriously enough. (Interestingly, even the title of the film itself suggests not only the physical punishment of the ring but also serves as notice to those who vilified him emotionally.) Yet, there is much more to this story than simply attempting to make amends. More than anything, Arquette wants to honour and respect the industry and prove to others that his love of the wrestling world is undisputable. While some moments of the doc may feel like pageantry, Arquette’s earnestness and commitment to the process is genuine. Wearing a hat that proclaims that ‘Wrestling’s Not Fake’, Arquette fully recognizes that, while the storylines and outcomes may be scripted, the sacrifices that the men and women make with their bodies for the sake of body slams are very real and take their toll over time. In this way, there’s an authenticity that shines through each performer, despite the wild spectacle of the show.
Though he calls himself the ‘Magic Man’, Arquette’s credibility stems not from his costume but by his willingness to learn, grow and, most of all, take the hits. His heart and honesty make him a hero. Arquette knows he will never be the best in the business. That’s not his goal. Instead of personal glory, Arquette simply wants to be invited to the table so he can be a part of a world that has meant so much to him over the years. As such, his determination and commitment may redeem him to the public but, more importantly, they also are a testament to the human spirit.
You Can’t Kill David Arquette is an honest look at a man who knows his limitations but wants to stand with his idols. Despite the unjust hate that he’s received over the years because of a poorly conceived publicity stunt, the man behind the championship belt is determined to show the world that he deserves to be there.
After all, in You Can’t Kill David Arquette proves that real heroes may get slammed but they can’t be put down.
You Can’t Kill David Arquette premieres at Fantasia Fest on August 24th, 2020 and on VOD on August 28th, 2020.