Wednesday 18 November 2020 3:46 pm

You Cannot Kill David Arquette documentary film review

James is one of City A.M.'s film critics and a regular on both TV and radio discussing the latest movie releases

Remember David Arquette? He played the lovable cop in the Scream movies, the lovable brother in Never Been Kissed, and for a brief time was the not-so-lovable World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion. 

Read more: Don’t let lockdown ruin your weekend: From take away pints to virtual clubbing

Whether you’re aware of that last credit or not is likely to determine how interested you are in this new documentary that follows his return to the ring. For newcomers, in 2000 Arquette briefly performed for wrestling federation WCW (World Championship Wrestling) as part of the promotion for his film Ready To Rumble. Hoping for a ratings boost, the company made Arquette the World Champion on national TV. It’s a move seen as a low point for an industry that often fights to be taken seriously, and make his name a four-letter word to millions of fans for years to come.

The film meets the actor eighteen years later, his career in the doldrums, and weathered from years of mental health issues and substance abuse. He sees his involvement in the wrestling world as the moment his career took a dive, with directors no longer taking this once-promising actor seriously. The 47-year-old sees a return to wrestling as a form of personal redemption, but with fans and federations unwilling to let him back in, he must start at the very bottom.

We may not be able to kill David Arquette, but the star himself certainly seems to be trying. He opens up about a difficult childhood, and personal losses including his sister Alexis in 2016. We see evidence of an ongoing battle with booze and drugs that led to a near-fatal heart attack. At his age, with poor physical condition, every doctor seems to suggest that grappling is the worst thing for him right now. 

So why are we here? Because David feels he needs to be, and that appears to be reason enough. Arquette’s desire to win back the fans that hate him seems to be genuine, as are the bemused reactions of his loved ones. Ex-wife Courtney Cox looks back on his first run in wrestling as if it were a messy night out, while acting sisters Patricia and Rosanna just seem to be relieved that he has found some focus. 

The wrestling element of the film is a lot less interesting. Segments such as training on a street in Mexico and making his debut at a backyard wrestling event reek of reality TV.

It’s also tonally jarring – having seen his mental and physical state, in particular one horrifying medical procedure involving ketamine, it’s hard to see this as the redemption tale it’s intended to be. 

There’s also a nagging moral issue to the whole affair: while pro-wrestling may be scripted, these men are still falling from great heights onto hard surfaces, putting their bodies through the mill. Whatever personal goal is at stake hardly seems to justify the risks the father of three is taking. This is underlined in blood when Arquette takes part in a “Death Match” using very real weapons, which goes very wrong indeed.

These are warning signs the film pointedly ignores as it moves toward a triumphant climax involving the actor’s eternally patient wife Christina McLarty. 

It’s hard to know what to take from You Can’t Kill David Arquette. Bodyslams are not a solution to personal trauma, and there is so much more to this story than an embarrassing career decision. Beneath the spandex, there’s a performer trying to claw back the warm glow of the spotlight. For his own sake, you hope this likable star finds what he’s looking for.

You Cannot Kill David Arquette is available on demand from Monday, 23rd November