Travis Leamons // Film Critic
YOU CANNOT KILL DAVID ARQUETTE
True or false: Leonardo DiCaprio, David Arquette, Matthew McConaughey, and Will Smith appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair’s “Hollywood” issue in 1996? The answer is true. Arquette’s inclusion in the photoshoot seems hard to fathom now, nearly 25 years later. But he was on quite the streak that year. He starred in the Western mini-series DEAD MAN’S WALK and appeared in the ensemble comedy BEAUTIFUL GIRLS. He helped in resurrecting the horror-slasher movie as the Barney Fife-esque Deputy Dwight “Dewey” Riley in SCREAM.
The Dewey character would, sadly, turn him into a novelty. Selecting projects that pigeonholed Arquette as a goofball would lead him to venture into professional wrestling four years after appearing in Vanity Fair. It was all to promote his new comedy READY TO RUMBLE. Arquette was stoked to step inside the same ring as Ric Flair and Randy Savage, legends he idolized as a lifelong fan of the sport.
Then, Arquette became the most hated man in wrestling.
A decision by the powers that be at World Championship Wrestling saw the actor become the company’s heavyweight champion. Repercussions the publicity stunt caused were so vicious that Arquette felt unwelcomed by both the acting community and the wrestling community.
YOU CANNOT KILL DAVID ARQUETTE, a documentary that takes its title from a 2005 song, is his crazy, uncanny story about redemption. Documentarian David Darg (BODY TEAM 12) and music video director, Price James, tag team on the film as Arquette makes his way back to wrestling some 20 years later — doing it for real this time.
A fan of wrestling myself, I remember when he was labeled by fans as the one who “killed the business,” having disrespected the sport and tarnishing a prestigious title in the process. OK, saying David Arquette killed the business is pretty extreme. A bad booking decision, yes, but far greater sins and scandals have been committed in wrestling. Steroids, drug overdoses, sexual harassment and misconduct, and one performer becoming like Voldemort (he who must not be named) after murdering his family before taking his own life.
Tired at laughing at the joke where he’s the punchline, Arquette’s quixotic quest to earn a measure of respect and revive a stagnating career is no laughing matter. While the exploit of an actor trying to be a wrestler sounds like a gag, YOU CANNOT KILL DAVID ARQUETTE becomes an underdog story that pulls you in. His honesty as it relates to health issues – having battled alcoholism, suffering a heart attack, and dealing with anxiety – it’s hard not to root for the guy.
Arquette’s journey to legitimacy (respectability?) is beset with various obstacles. The learning curve to wrestle is swift as we follow him after being rebuffed in participating at a Legends of Wrestling event. The trip to the ring includes being humiliated at a “backyard wrestling” match in front of a crowd of nobodies. Training in Virginia followed by stops in Cancun and Tijuana – where we see masked luchadors performing at intersections for pesos when the light is red – eventually leads him back to the United States.
We hear from siblings Rosanna and Patricia Arquette; his ex-wife, Courtney Cox; and current wife, Christine McLarty. All are confused as to why David would pursue a wrestling career at age 46.
Getting slammed and pummeled is part of the business, then things take a drastic turn when he participates in a “death match.” Found in hardcore wrestling, these anything-goes brawls are tough to watch, and what Arquette goes through is cringeworthy and not for the weak of heart.
This incident and the epilogue that occurs after he recovers from a trip to the emergency room offers a heart-wrenching moment that totally blindsided me. No wrestling promoter could book that good a storybook ending for Arquette’s short wrestling career.
YOU CANNOT KILL DAVID ARQUETTE is an amazing documentary about a guy who was one of Hollywood’s young leading men trying to turn back the hands of time. It may not lead to bigger roles or some acting renaissance, but David Arquette earns redemption and my respect.
YOU CANNOT KILL DAVID ARQUETTE is now available on VOD.