The Iron Claw (2023)

by | Dec 19, 2023 | Movie Reviews, New In Theaters | 0 comments

The Iron Claw is the devastating portrayal of a group of wrestling brothers who relied on one another to stay above water while their overbearing father attempted to live his life through them. It’s an unfortunate story we’ve seen before with parents who spend all their time and effort pushing their children to achieve the thing that they never could, but this story feels markedly different and more tragic than most. The Von Erich wrestling family from Texas was said to be cursed after losing their first child in a terrible accident and after spending time watching the film and then reading about their story, it’s not hard to see why they all believed in this curse.

The Iron Claw

Fritz Von Erich (Holt McCallany) was a semi-professional wrestler known for his fabled move “The Iron Claw” and his ability to constantly overpower stronger opponents. After never receiving a shot at the Heavyweight World Champion belt, Fritz made it his mission to ensure one of his children would eventually bring the belt to the family. Kevin (Zac Efron) was the most primed for the sport, while his younger brother Kerry (Jeremy Allen White) was to be an Olympic athlete in a separate sport. Younger brothers David (Harris Dickinson) and Michael (Stanley Simons) were both tall and muscular naturally, but Michael was more artistic, and David would do whatever his father asked. After countless years of battling for their father’s attention and respect at the expense of their bodies and mental health, slowly the Von Erich curse seemed to materialize and affect the family forever.

As far as sports biopic go, A24 has acquired something truly unique in The Iron Claw in that it blends such immense tragedy with a truly beautiful story of undying brotherly love that’s all set among the ridiculous world of WWE. There’s a huge amount of actual wrestling stunts that the actors were doing which really does help sell the sport they’re all so devoted to, especially when you see how much fun they can have while choreographing their matches. Zac Efron went to the Christian Bale school of getting absurdly ripped before a role and shows up here looking larger than ever before and completely selling his character on every level. Physically, Jeremy Allen White and Harris Dickinson also stepped up and bulked up for the film, delivering two physically and emotionally anchored performances.

The tragedies of the Von Erich family are almost too many to number and for as horrific as everything seems in the film, things were a thousand times worse in real life and I can imagine that this story is one that was hard to adapt. For an audience to believe that so many things can go wrong can be a lot to ask for as this film at times truly felt unbelievable as things got progressively worse. Fortunately, there’s a brilliant story centered around Efron’s Kevin that really keeps your hope somewhat aflame while you see the world around him crumbling. For my money this is Efron’s best performance as he completely immersed himself in an incredibly demanding role which stands out among most of the performances I’ve seen all year.

The Iron Claw is somewhat of a challenge to discuss because of the events which occur in the film and how they impact the rest of the story. What I can say is that for everything the film does incredibly well, I did feel it falls short a bit on the writing side as more than a few scenes felt underwritten or far too on the nose. Weirdly, it felt the film played down the meanness of the father figure (who we all know is a complete monster) and that it shied away from more of the intimate moments as well. The Lily James love storyline is enjoyable, but I’m also not sure it’s given the time it needs to totally deliver the impact that the ending hopes to achieve. I was hoping to come away a bit more amazed by the movie than I did, but I can safely say that The Iron Claw is among one of my favorites of the year and it absolutely contains one of, if not multiple of my favorite performances this year as well.

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