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The Iron Claw

The Iron Claw uses wrestling as a backdrop to highlight the film’s fact-based story about a family in crisis. Sean Durkin, known for his work on The Nest, expands the canvas of familial isolation on an epic scale that spans generations. The Von Erich’s are wrestling royalty and their story unfolds into a powerful family saga. For one, the lure of fame secludes, effectively cutting themselves off from the rest of the world. However, the façade remains. This leads to the godforsaken isolation of expressive suppression because of male toxicity inherent in the nuclear family and a profession that is just as unforgiving.


Durkin's script unfolds around the 'eldest' son of the Von Erich dynasty, the remarkable Kevin (portrayed by the outstanding Zac Efron), cradling the family's aspirations within his grasp. His father, Fritz (Holt McCallany, Mindhunter), a seasoned wrestler in his own right, was never afforded the opportunity to seize the pinnacle he believed his family deserved. Kevin becomes Fritz's last hope for ascension within World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW). Yet, this hope shatters, as Fritz treats his son not as kin but as property and an employee. Instead, he entrusts Kevin with the training of David (Harris Dickinson), who emerges as the family's newfound star.

Fritz and his wife, Doris (Maura Tierney), exploit their sons to fulfill their own ambitions, placing unwarranted pressure on Kevin. His discerning eyes witness the unfair treatment of his youngest brother, Mike (Stanley Simmons, Superior). Meanwhile, Kerry (Jeremy Allen White, The Bear), an Olympic-bound discus thrower and former world-class college athlete, faces a sudden disruption as President Jimmy Carter withdraws the United States' participation in protest of Russia's invasion of Afghanistan. Suddenly, all the boys find themselves back home, where mounting pressure leads to tragic results.


The family dynamics Durkin brings to The Iron Claw lead to some powerful scenes and situations. For example, consider Von Erich's theory that it takes a village to raise a child. Take, for instance, the Von Erich family's philosophy that raising a child requires a village. However, this 'village' lacks the essential elements of paternal and maternal involvement. Mike has a creative and sensitive nature, a facet overshadowed by Doris's reluctance to intervene when Fritz's sternness takes its toll. She won't let him take a paid gig with his band, supporting her husband's controlling vision.

The Iron Claw

Kevin is used as the parent, while Fritz and Doris remain hands-off. This forces Kevin to blur the lines between wrestling and family, putting another son's life in danger. Even when Kevin seeks her support, she denies him the opportunity to take a paid gig with his band, aligning herself with the domineering Fritz. Kevin is essentially used as a surrogate parent, while Fritz and Doris conspicuously remain hands-off. This compels Kevin to make familial decisions that are blurred for him, as his professional and personal lives become intertwined and essentially the same. As you watch the film, this ultimately puts more than one son in jeopardy. These are powerful scenes that ring true after a second viewing.

Regrettably, Lily James finds herself underutilized in the all-too-common, thankless spousal role. Even as Durkin attempts to inject tension into the dynamic between Efron's Kevin and the intricacies of their relationship and professional responsibilities, James's character fails to contribute significantly to the narrative. Despite this, the unheralded performance of The Iron Claw comes for Maura Tierney. As tragedies begin to accumulate, her character life begins to crumble around her, in one particular heart-retendering scene, is undeniably moving. The audience’s heart will no doubt, break with her.

The Iron Claw

We don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but Zac Efron's unwavering and self-assured performance stands as the bedrock of The Iron Claw. There’s always a mindful undercurrent of his family’s curse that simmers under Efron’s stoic gaze as he observes the paternal Von Erich’s brutish style. Durkins carefully brewing tension has the viewer on the edge of their seats in the powerful third act, marked yet again by more tragic twists. That choice leads to a moment of cinematic heaven that rivals something Terrance Malick will tip his hat to too. In effect, The Iron Claw pulls the curtain back on beards fame all too well. Exposing the price of nuclear units who refrain from seeking help when needed until someone is brave enough to break the cycle.


Rating The Iron Claw


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