Friday, December 22, 2023

The Iron Claw

When asked by his girlfriend (Lily James) what he wants out of life, Kevin Von Erich (Zac Efron) states his desire to simply spend time with his brothers. Brought up in wresting by their father Fritz Von Erich (Holt McCallany), Kevin, David (Harris Dickinson), Kerry (Jeremy Allen White), and Mike (Stanley Simons) wrestled as part of the Von Erich promotion World Class Championship Wrestling with Fritz pushing his sons to their limits and beyond while ranking and tempering his love for his sons by how each performed in the ring.

The Iron Claw is a modern day tragedy for a family that saw more than its share. What follows would be morbidly humorous if it weren't so desperately sad. Kevin mentions a Von Erich curse which could be easily dismissed but given the events which occurred it's hard to fault his superstitions (and that's with the film removing the tragedy of the youngest Von Erich and briefly mentioning the death of Fritz's oldest son who died before being old enough to step into a ring, for concerns over the screenplay's length).

The Von Erichs were all hard-living brothers who loved each other deeply, a theme the film continually falls back on. While most, although not all, were talented in the ring, from the screenplay from writer/director Sean Durkin its hard to say how much they actually loved the sport of wrestling versus how much they simply loved preforming together in front of ravenous crowds for the crumbs of affection they received from their father.

Giving us the pre-WWF days of wrestling with territories and small promotions fighting each other for money and prestige, The Iron Claw captures the look and feel of classic wrestling with the actors (and their stunt doubles) handling themselves well in the ring. AEW's Maxwell Jacob Friedman has a small role in the film as a journeyman wrestler hired to play the role of Lance Von Erich to try and keep the family legacy alive after the tragedies begin to strike. We also get a few other classic faces from those days in wrestling with Ryan Nemeth as Gino Hernandez, Kevin Anton as Harley Race, Aaron Dean Eisenberg as Ric Flair, and Cazzey Louis Cereghino as Bruiser Brody.

The Iron Claw is a good movie, but it isn't a fun one which might shock unsuspecting wrestling fans not prepared for what they are walking into (I heard more than one audible gasp in the screening I attended). For those who want more on the history of the family, I'd suggest both The Dark Side of the Ring's "The Last of the Von Erichs" and ESPN's short "The Wrestling Curse." I think there are places where the screenplay could have been tightened up a bit, and we could have gotten a better understanding of the romantic relationships of the other brothers, but it succeeds in what it sets out to do in telling the story of the group of brothers pursuing one of the world's more unique professions and the tragic legacy of the Von Erich family.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: The Iron Claw
  • IMDb: link

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