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‘The Iron Claw’ Review: A Beautiful Tragedy That Packs a Punch

The Iron Claw is an emotionally gripping biopic, directed by Sean Durkin and produced by A24. This compelling story follows the inseparable Von Erich brothers, who etched their names in the annals of professional wrestling during the fiercely competitive early 1980s. It delves into the dissolution of dreams and the relentless pursuit of success, painting a poignant portrait of brawny bodies and unbreakable brotherhood.

Amidst the backdrop of their domineering father and coach, the Von Erich family — legendary professional wrestlers from Texas — strive for larger-than-life immortality on the grandest sports stage. However, their journey is not without its challenges. As they battle both in and out of the ring, they also face the weight of the infamous “Von Erich curse,” a series of devastating personal tragedies that cast a shadow over their lives.

With director Sean Durkin’s masterful storytelling and A24’s cinematic prowess, The Iron Claw captures the essence of triumph and tragedy, delivering a heart-wrenching exploration of the human spirit and the indomitable bonds of family. It is a mesmerizing tale that intertwines athletic prowess, unwavering determination, and the pursuit of legacy.

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Body slams and bloodlines: Family ties of the Von Erichs

The film delves into the profound familial bonds that emerge and evolve as the story unfolds. At the center of it all is the Von Erich family, led by their coach and father, Fritz (Holt McCallany), and supported by mother Doris (Maura Tierney) and four brothers: Kevin (Zac Efron), Kerry (Jeremy Allen White), David (Harris Dickinson), and Mike (Stanley Simons). While the film briefly acknowledges the loss of their eldest brother Jack at a young age, it primarily focuses on the deep-rooted passion for wrestling that unites the entire family.

Yet, The Iron Claw also sheds light on the influence of their father Fritz, whose presence looms over their wrestling aspirations. This is particularly evident in the case of the youngest brother, Mike, who initially harbored a strong interest in music and played the guitar. Unfortunately, his dreams were discouraged by his father, steering him toward the path of becoming a wrestler. Despite these challenges, the film underscores the enduring strength of the familial bonds that shape their lives.

Suplexcellent performances that steal the show

(L-R) Harris Dickinson, Zac Efron, Stanley Simons, Jeremy Allen White // CREDIT: Eric Chakeen

The entire cast of the Von Erichs delivered exceptional performances, but it was Zac Efron and Jeremy Allen White who truly stood out. Efron masterfully portrayed the strength and resilience of Kevin as he confronted numerous challenges in his life. Despite facing constant adversity, Efron captured the unwavering determination Kevin had in order to push through the pain and move forward. This performance undoubtedly ranks among Efron’s best, showcasing his dedication and his dramatic acting prowess. White, who gained recognition for his recent stellar role in Hulu’s The Bear, continues to impress with his exceptional talent in this production as well.

The supporting cast also deserves commendation for their outstanding performances. Holt McCallany, Lily James, and Maura Tierney delivered noteworthy portrayals. Holt McCallany’s depiction of the domineering father of the Von Erichs was truly captivating, showcasing his relentless obsession with his family’s wrestling success and adding profound depth to his character. Lily James mesmerized the audience with her portrayal of Pam Adkisson, Kevin’s love interest, who constantly struggled to keep him grounded throughout the film. Lastly, Maura Tierney brought an understated authenticity to the role of the matriarch of the Von Erich family, showcasing unwavering strength and resilience in supporting her husband and wrestling sons. All three actors showcased remarkable performances, enriching the film with layers of intricate depth that were truly captivating.

The final bell rings: Parting thoughts to wrap up the mayhem

In 2009, the Von Erich family was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, a well-deserved honor for their wrestling dynasty. The film’s title, derived from Fritz Von Erich’s iconic signature move, “The Iron Claw,” captures the essence of their legacy. However, while delving deeper into the background of the Von Erichs in the film, it was surprising to note the absence of the sixth and youngest brother, Chris. Although the omission can be attributed to the need to manage the film’s length, it is still unexpected that such a significant aspect of the family’s history is left unexplored.

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Overall, The Iron Claw beautifully captures the essence of the legendary Von Erichs’ wrestling legacy. It skillfully delves into the intricacies of their family dynamics, exploring the depths of their ambition and unearthing the sacrifices made in their relentless pursuit of success. With compelling storytelling and nuanced character development, this cinematic showcase offers a profound glimpse into the triumphs and trials of one of wrestling’s most iconic families.

Make sure you “pin down” the release date of The Iron Claw, hitting theaters on December 22, 2023.


Ben Ahrens_Author HeadshotBen Ahrens is a versatile Silicon Valley-based writer, content marketer, photographer, and graphic designer. His passion lies in crafting engaging stories for the entertainment industry and embracing the tech culture of the Bay Area to uncover the next ground-breaking innovations. When not weaving words, you’ll find him curating the perfect playlist for every occasion or exploring the diverse landscapes of Northern California.

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