Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

The Iron Claw is an engaging biopic of one the first families of wrestling

The Iron Claw, the latest film from A24, directed by Sean Durkin, tells one of the most heart-wrenching wrestling stories. The screenplay, written by Durkin, depicts the true story of four of the five inseparable Von Erich brothers – Kevin (played by Zac Efron), Kerry (played by Jeremy Allen White), David (played by Harris Dickinson), and Mike (played by Stanley Simons) – who achieved great success in the highly competitive world of professional Wrestling in the early 1980s.

Doris, portrayed by Maura Tierney, plays a significant role in her son’s journey to greatness in sports. She supports and guides them tirelessly as they navigate competitive sports’ complex and often perilous waters. Despite their father and coach Fritz’s (played by Holt McCallany) controlling presence, the brothers’ fierce determination to succeed shines through.

The brothers are determined to succeed despite facing numerous challenges. They devote all their time to improving their skills and abilities, pushing themselves through arduous training sessions and high-pressure competitions. Their unwavering commitment to their sport stems from a strong desire to achieve greatness and make their mark on the world stage.

As they pursue greatness, they encounter moments of triumph and setbacks that devastate them, experiencing full emotions. They remain committed to their craft throughout their journey, drawing strength from their mother’s unwavering support and unbreakable bond. Together, they navigate the twists and turns of the sports world, determined to emerge victorious and carve out their path in the face of adversity.

Growing up, I was never into Wrestling and knew nothing of the “Von Erich curse” or the wrestling hold they popularized. Primarily I wanted to see the film as I’m a fan of the cast. Durkin starts the movie by introducing Fritz and his wrestling career with a lush black-and-white sequence before we meet a ripped Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich.

Efron, who shredded his Disney image eons ago, continues to mature as an actor. While Efron showed athleticism in Baywatch, the transformation he underwent to portray a wrestler is profound. Efron steers most of the film’s ship and takes on a wave of emotions as he deals with finding love with Pam (Lily James), competing in matches, and dealing with an aggressive father.

Similarly, Harris Dickinson, Stanley Simons, and Jermey Allen White all deliver solid performances of the respective Von Brothers they are portraying. Kudos to the casting directing for using semi-unknowns for two brothers to offset the more famous Efron and Jeremy Allen White. Holt McCallany delivers the grizzled dad performance you would expect from him, which balances out with Maura Tierney’s loving mother. Wrestling fans will appreciate seeing the ring action and the representation of Ric Flair, Bruiser Brody, and Edward “The Shiek” Farhat.

Those who know the story may question some of the film’s narrative choices, particularly the omission of Chris (who was cut for run time). However, seeing the film’s second half, when the tragedy starts, is a lot to deal with, so I understand why he was omitted. Although similar to most biopics, casual fans may leave wanting more.

Thankfully, the acting in the film rises above the usual biopic tropes, and director Sean Durkin crafts a cautionary tale about parental influence, sibling rivalry, and the various dangers of the professional wrestling business.

Final Grade: B+

A24 will hold sneak previews of The Iron Claw tomorrow December 13th before the film goes wide on December 22nd.

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The Iron Claw is an engaging biopic of one the first families of wrestling