The Iron Claw

December 22, 202380/1006 min
Starring
Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson , Maura Tierney
Written by
Sean Durkin
Directed by
Sean Durkin
Run Time
2h 10min
Release Date
December 22nd, 2023
Overall Score
Rating Summary

Men of a certain age who watched wrestling as kids are well aware of the power the iron claw possessed in backyards and living rooms. I, like most boys of that time, would wrestle with friends and declare with force when I would break out that signature move. The family responsible for making that move so popular was the Von Erichs, who were the first family of wrestling in the early nineteen-eighties. At that time, they were on top of the world, but like most things that go up, the Von Erich family came down, and oh, did they come down hard.

For those who are younger or have never been wrestling fans, the Von Erich family was must-watch TV. Their father, Fritz (Holt McCallany), was a wrestler himself but was never able to climb the ladder all the way to the top. Sometimes, though, parents use their children to make up for their failures, and Fritz had four boys who could be the champions he never was. His oldest, Kevin (Zac Efron), is in the driver’s seat to achieve that, but that dream hits a roadblock when an exhibition fight goes badly. Luckily for Fritz, he has three more boys, David (Harris Dickinson), Kerry (Jeremy Allen White), and Michael (Stanley Simons), who, out of fear of disappointing their father, gladly jump in the ring. Anyone who grew up in Texas or is a wrestling fan has heard of the Von Erich curse, so hearing that, you can assume correctly that things didn’t go as planned. No matter how hard Fritz pushed his boys or changed the order, he claimed to love them; their mother, Dorris (Maura Tierney), never intervened with the way Fritz handled things, which ended up leading to a true American tragedy.

Written and directed by Sean Durkin, “The Iron Claw” is a portrayal of one of wrestling’s most influential families that is also a drama about the curse that plagued them. It is hard for you as a viewer not to have sympathy for what you are seeing and object to how their father uses them. What stood out for me was the strong family dynamic, but often for the wrong reasons. For example, in one scene, Fritz lets Kevin know he is no longer the chosen one, not by telling him, but by telling David he is this family’s best chance to be a champion. It is the look of disappointment on Kevin’s face that says it all, not the disappointment of not getting a chance but of letting his father down.

“The Iron Claw” doesn’t just just lean on the family element, it also has an impressive sense of professional wrestling. And what it takes to stand out in such a sport. It also does a remarkable job of almost underplaying the dramatic situations that would normally be focused on. Instead, we, like the Von Erich family, are confronted with them, thus making those events more horrible. All of this is delivered by a great cast, with Efron especially giving a metamorphic performance. He is tender, but you can see the storm underneath, as he seems to be punished for crimes he never committed. “The Iron Claw” is a riveting study of both brotherhood and loss and will leave a mark on those who have experienced both. For the rest of us, we get to see into the lives of one of the truly great sports families.

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