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‘The Iron Claw’ Movie Review

A father’s love can sometimes be destructive.

Sean Durkin’s latest film, The Iron Claw tells the story of the Von Erich’s, who were a famous professional wrestling family that were constantly overwhelmed with devastation. Comparing it to a Greek tragedy may seem like an easy thing to do but I fear the comparison may make some forget that this is a story about a very real family who suffered many excruciating losses.

The film is truly devastating but it’s clear that Sean Durkin tells the story with all of the empathy that it deserves. Durkin ensures that you are aware of every tear, laugh and scream that this family experienced and does it all without being judgmental of their approach to life. The Von Erich brothers just wanted to make their father proud and did their best within the shackles of his toxic masculinity. I didn’t grow up watching wrestling and often felt like it was all a spectacle too cheesy for me to truly enjoy yet Durkin finds the heart in all of the theatrics that come with wrestling. The spectacle is cemented in reality because the film beautifully explains the passion behind every decision on that ring. It’s an insight that is appreciated and I found myself walking away with a larger appreciation for the sport.

With the story centering brotherly love, it makes sense that the ensemble cast includes hefty performances from the actors that carry the story of the Von Erich brothers. Stanley Simons (Mike Von Erich) is the youngest of the bunch and would much rather like to focus on music, but the pressure from his father Fritz (played by Holt McCallany) causes him to eventually step on the ring. Stanley’s portrayal of Mike is full of so much tenderness that you almost ache for him as you see him try to fulfill his father’s dream. David Von Erich needed a stage charisma that few could’ve made feel humble and Harris Dickinson accomplishes just that. Jeremy Allen White (Kerry Von Erich) has been a force to be reckoned with for quite some time and you will find yourself rooting for Kerry even within all of his chaos.

Zac Efron’s entire essence became Kevin Von Erich and his performance felt so rich that the film almost felt like an immersive experience. There were multiple times that the film almost felt like a documentary and I mean that in the best way possible. Zac Efron is a powerhouse in this film and I don’t just mean the extra muscle weight he put on for the role. Every single frame was performed to his maximum ability and the weight of what he does on that screen will stay with the audience long after the movie is over.

I don’t love making grand statements when it comes to films, especially in a year that seems jam-packed with films that are worthy of all the awards show attention. With that being said, The Iron Claw may just be the best film I’ve seen all year. Durkin unpacks societal concepts that often become our detriment, in a way that humanizes the men that don’t often get it right. Yet it doesn’t shy away from showing how toxic masculinity and a father’s need for perfection can become the demise of a family. Yes, this film is gut-wrenching but at it’s core is a heart that beats with all of the colorful costumes seen in a wrestling ring. It portrays a complicated family with respect and you’re guaranteed to leave the theater wanting to celebrate everything that contributes to the phenomenal sport of wrestling.