Film Review: You Cannot Kill David Arquette is an alarmingly bleak and emotional documentary about a fascinatingly off-kilter actor

At one point in his career David Arquette was poised to be a potential acting force among the other stars of his generation.  He worked the indie cinema circuit, he was profiled alongside such talent as Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith, and Matthew McConaughey, his work in the Scream films earned him box office clout, and he even had a celebrity marriage for more than the sake of relevance; Courtney Cox, as she states, flirted with him on the set of Scream (1996), hated him during the filming of Scream 2 (1997), married him by the time Scream 3 (2000) came around, and subsequently divorced him by Scream 4 (2011).  Amongst all that, he decided he wanted to be a wrestler.

In 2000, in a cross promotional stunt with his forgotten wrestling-themed comedy Ready To Rumble, Arquette was “awarded” the World Championship Wrestling (WCW) Heavyweight Championship in a move that many saw as little more than a publicity stunt.  Long-time fans of the sport were volatile in their reactions, as was Arquette who was irked that his involvement in the medium – one he deeply admires – was seen as disrespectful.  Despite his ageing frame and ill health, the colourful actor saw a window of opportunity in clearing his name and participating in the sport in a genuine capacity.  This journey is captured in You Cannot Kill David Arquette which, despite a tongue-in-cheek title (mostly referring to his resilience in the aforementioned Scream movies), is alarmingly bleak and emotional, as filmmakers David Darg and Price James document his intent on clearing his name within the wrestling community.

What easily could have been a puff piece about the fascinatingly off-kilter Arquette is a far darker project than I assume many will be expecting.  The film itself rarely references any of his own roles, he talks openly about the fact that he’s been auditioning for the last 10 years without much success, and the insights into his family life suggest a haunted, twisted upbringing that, sadly, feels all too familiar in the realms of the broken Hollywood system; hearing his sisters, actresses Rosanna Arquette and Patricia Arquette, discuss the violent acts of their mother and being strangled at her hand is unnerving to grasp.

As easy as it is to dismiss Arquette’s fanatical mentality, You Cannot Kill David Arquette is rather inspiring in the fact that his commitment to the sport itself and his absolute conviction in realising his redemption seldom wavers; the actor is literally almost killed in an attack and, after momentarily walking away from the ring, returns to properly close out the match.  The fact that he is so open throughout – he and his new wife, Christina McLarty, are both producers, so they could have readily not signed off on a lot of the footage being released – only reiterates his passion and that his own ego has been absolutely removed from the equation.

The Arquette family are an engrossing bunch on their own accord and, if there’s a downside to James and Darg’s oddly sweet film, it’s that the more the family’s own history and Arquette’s own psyche reveal themselves, the further we wish to stay with them instead of veering off into the shockingly violent sequences of David being battered beyond belief in matches that drive home how dangerous this “staged” sport truly is.  You Cannot Kill David Arquette may focus on an actor you give little thought to or on a sport you have remote interest in, but the surprising beauty of such an effort is that you’ll be thoroughly engaged, touched, and ultimately glad that David Arquette cannot be eradicated as easily as presumed.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

You Cannot Kill David Arquette will be available on digital platforms in Australia on September 6th, 2021.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.

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