REVIEW: “You Cannot Kill David Arquette” (2020)

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Documentaries come in every shape, size, or form. They can be about any person, place, issue, or topic under the sun. Case in point: “You Cannot Kill David Arquette”, an unusual film telling an unusual story about an unusual man. It comes from co-directors David Darg and Price James and highlights the once starbound Arquette’s journey to regain respect, not in Hollywood, but in the world of professional wrestling.

A little backstory. David Arquette once seemed destined for superstardom. He was considered among the biggest rising stars, even appearing on a 1996 Vanity Fair cover with the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Will Smith (in fairness it also featured Skeet Ulrich). Also in 1996 Arquette was cast in Wes Craven’s slasher film “Scream” playing the good-hearted but dim-witted Deputy Dewey. It would become his most recognized role, but it also led to him being typecast and his career never took off as expected.

Jump ahead to the year 2000. While doing publicity for his new film “Ready to Rumble”, Arquette partnered with World Championship Wrestling. In the ill-advised cross-promotion it was decided that Arquette would actually win the esteemed WCW Heavyweight Title. The storyline enraged wrestling fans who felt it cheapened the title. Much of the outrage fell on Arquette, a true wrestling fan who loved the business but was quickly considered persona non grata in the wrestling world.

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Photo Courtesy of Super LTD

“You Cannot Kill David Arquette” finds its subject lost in the cracks of Hollywood and wrestling, two forms of entertainment he loves, neither of which takes him seriously. “I’m sick of being a joke,” he laments. In one sense it’s hard to feel bad for Arquette. He has a beautiful family and a swanky California home. And while he talks about his promising acting career turning into “ten years of rejection“, a quick gander at his IMDB page shows that’s not entirely true. In reality he has been steadily working, just not in caliber of movies he would like.

On the other hand, we can’t help but sympathize once the film digs into more personal soil. Darg and James put their camera on Arquette and allow him and his family to reveal anything they want about the actor/wrestler’s rollercoaster journey. We learn of depression, anxiety, and self-destructive hard living. At one point Arquette describes himself as a “functioning alcoholic”. Then he has an epiphany of sorts. Despite his physical and psychological problems, Arquette decides to get back into wrestling, starting at the bottom and working his way up in an effort to win over the fans who have shunned him. “I don’t care about being a champ. I care about respect.”

The majority of the documentary follows Arquette’s quest to rid himself of the undeserved shame and earn the respect of the die-hard wrestling community. Not the smartest move for a 46-year-old out of shape guy with health concerns, but admirable and inspiring in its own weird way. It’s not an easy journey. Arquette starts by doing backyard matches in makeshift rings where he’s slammed on thumbtacks and has fluorescent light bulbs shattered across his back. He works his way up to the independent wrestling circuit where he begins to get back in shape. He even travels to Tijuana to train with luchadors.

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Photo Courtesy of Super LTD

Some of what we see is fun, even exciting and you can’t help but root for the underdog. Other scenes are uncomfortable to watch, most notably a brutally violent and bloody “death match” against a wrestler named Nicolas Gage that ends in a near life-threatening injury. It leaves you questioning whether the potential sense of accomplishment and purpose Arquette hopes to gain is worth the ultimate cost. The film wants us to wrestle with that quandary even though Arquette doesn’t. He’s resolute and unwavering in his goal.

Along the way we get welcomed perspectives from David’s family including his wife Christina, sisters Patricia and Rosanna, and his ex-wife Courtney Cox. We even get a brief yet touching scene with the late Luke Perry (blink and you may miss it). We also get insight from several recognizable faces from within the professional wrestling sphere including Ric Flair, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and Diamond Dallas Page. All of these contributions are invaluable and they add points-of-view that helps ground the film (something it really needs from time to time).

It may be tempting to view the entire movie as nothing more than a vanity project. Certainly there are elements of that which are hard to get around. But reducing it to such a linear reading means missing its biggest strengths. As cliché as it may sound, “You Cannot Kill David Arquette” is a documentary of self-discovery. It’s about a broken, wayward man-child longing for acceptance and a sense of self-worth. In one of the more subtly sad details, the only way he feels he can get it is to re-enter an industry that views him with bitter contempt. Yes, there are scenes in the doc where it looks like Arquette is putting on a show. And who knows, maybe the whole thing is a ruse. But his pain and yearning feel deeply personal and they set him on a journey that is silly, heartbreaking, endearing, and violent, often all at the same time. “You Cannot Kill David Arquette” is streaming now on VOD.

VERDICT – 3.5 STARS

3-5-stars

11 thoughts on “REVIEW: “You Cannot Kill David Arquette” (2020)

  1. I read an article about this guy a few months ago. The whole thing seemed weird and almost like a put up job, an Andy Kaufman sort of performance art thing, but I guess it’s real. Sounds interesting, if I ever see it pop up somewhere I’d give it a look.

    • I think it’s real but it is kinda weird. Still there are points where it does look like Arquette is putting on a show. He definitely takes real bumps though and some of its rawest moments are emotional and convincing.

  2. David Arquette — Can you imagine rising in popularity as an actor but somewhere along the way no one wants you anymore? It’s one thing to dream and envy; it’s another to achieve some success but have to deal with rejection and the knowledge you aren’t in the top tier. Or the second. Or third. Okay, yes, he has that swanky house and most definitely more money in his checking account than mine, it’s cool he’s trying to reinvent himself. Underdogs are always welcome in cinema. Maybe as a documentary, it will plump his popularity up again. I’m curious.

  3. Being a wrestling fan, I do want to see this. What happened in 2000 was a horrendous year for WCW. For anyone who doesn’t follow pro wrestling or watch it like I do, here is a bit of a history lesson of what was happened and how the Arquette incident made things worse:

    It was around the AOL-Time Warner merger in 2000 as Ted Turner was the owner of WCW but a few years ago merged everything he owned including CNN, TNT, and TBS with Time Warner and WCW had to play nice with the standards and practices of Time Warner. When the AOL-Time Warner merger was in the works, WCW in 1998 and 1999 had lost around $15-$18 million in those respective years despite being a popular draw in TV ratings. In 2000, a lot of bad things happened behind the scenes as it relates to former WWE writer Vince Russo who just created chaos in an attempt to get WCW back on track but was briefly let go in favor of veteran wrestler/booker Kevin Sullivan.

    Unfortunately, Sullivan’s return to the role lead to the departure of four of the best wrestlers at that time who were unfortunately kept down in the mid-card in favor of older talent like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Kevin Nash, and Lex Luger who were all past their prime. Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and Chris Benoit all left WCW and immediately signed contracts with WWE where they were treated better like their former WCW associates in Paul Wight aka the Big Show and Chris Jericho.

    Sullivan’s role as booker with Kevin Nash’s involvement (who was the booker in early ’99) lead to rehashes of old stories that fans didn’t want to see and then in April of 2000. WCW brought back Russo and former WCW executive vice president Eric Bischoff (who left in late 1999 due to burn-out and bad decisions) to help the company. They tried to do an angle of old wrestlers vs. new and up-and-coming wrestlers. In theory, it was a good idea but the execution was poor while much of the young talent at the time weren’t very good.

    Arquette came in to help promote the horror that was Ready to Rumble and if there is someone to blame for what happened. It’s Vince Russo though it wasn’t his idea. It was then WCW commentator Tony Schiavone who jokingly said “why don’t you put the belt on Arquette?” and Russo was like “that’s a good idea” but Schiavone was like “no, I was joking goddamnit”. Arquette to his credit didn’t even want to do it knowing that the WCW World Heavyweight Championship had lost some prestige due to the numerous title vacancies in 2000 (which would increase more for the rest of the year). Anyone who becomes a world champ gets some money but Arquette fortunately never took the money and instead gave it to the families of fallen wrestlers and officials.

    It was on an episode of WCW Thunder (taped) and Russo said that it would bring WCW a lot of headlines and attention and that people would talk about it. Well, he was right but for all of the wrong reasons. It was in a tag match between WCW Champion Jeff Jarrett and Eric Bischoff vs. Diamond Dallas Page and David Arquette and whoever scored the pinfall would win the world championship. Arquette would spear Bischoff and pin him and becomes the world champion.

    It was a nightmare for a year that would get much worse for WCW as they would put the belt on Russo via shenanigans, numerous title vacancies, and all sorts of dumb shit. In that year alone, they lost more than $60 million and to the new owners that would be AOL-Time Warner. That was something they didn’t want to be associated with and in March/April of 2001. An asshole named Jamie Kellner made the decision to cancel all WCW programming just as Bischoff was attempting to buy the company with a group of investors hoping it would stay on Turner. Sadly, WCW was sold to WWE for a paltry $3 million.

    I’m glad Arquette is at least trying to redeem himself as he didn’t deserve the awful shit he got for what he did. It’s Vince Russo’s fault. Yet, for anyone who watches WWE in recent years. I would rather watch WCW 2000 than anything WWE is doing right now.

    • I remember it well. The Monday Night Wars had already turned towards Connecticut at that point. WCW was hemorrhaging and all of their poor decision making had caught up with them. Russo was a cancer with an ego the size of Atlanta. He was definitely the idiot behind the move and the movie talks about it. Very interesting.

      • Even though he’s not in WWE anymore, at least the shit he puts out had some value in comparison to the shit that WWE is putting out now. It’s why I haven’t watched their programming in 6 years so far. Thank God for NWA, AEW, and New Japan.

      • I haven’t been interested in much of it for a while. They have a couple of talents I enjoy. I did enjoy them considerably more than WCW during the “wars”. But I do miss the old-school stuff. I grew up on Mid-South. 😂

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