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Iron Claw on the surface is a wrestling sports biopic, but at its heart is a family tragedy. Sean Durkins’ latest offering tells the tragic story of the Von Erich brothers, a wrestling dynasty where five out of six of the brothers died tragically young, two of them taking their own lives.
Such a film may sound like it would be a crushing watch, that only die-hard wrestling fans would enjoy. But trust me, as someone who knows nothing about the sport, I thoroughly enjoyed this film and despite the heartache and suffering surrounding the Von Erichs, the film inspires as much as it challenges you.
The film shows both the euphoric highs and the terrifying lows of professional wrestling brought on from a domineering patriarch.
Zac Efron, an actor who got his start as a Disney teen idol, does an amazing job in a serious role as the oldest and only surviving Von Erich, Kevin.
Kevin and his younger brothers Kerry (Jeremy Allen White) and David’s (Harris Dickinson) entire world is based upon being the toughest and strongest wrestler, a macho man who is a winner and this has been drilled into them by their oppressive father Fitz (Holt McCallany, who does an excellent job of portraying a man who believes he is toughening up his sons but is really harming them) a failed wrestler himself.
Newcomer Stanley Simmons does an excellent job of playing the runt of the litter Mike, who wants nothing more than to be a musician, but is sadly claimed by the Von Erich curse.
Over the course of the film, we see the under-dog stories as the brother’s train and rise through the ranks triumphantly for the world championship wrestling belt. We follow them and feel euphoric as they claim the title.
Hower victory turns to tragedy as injury and death claim the lives of the brothers before their time and Kevin is ultimately left with the choice of choosing between being the ideal son for his father or his new family with Pamela (Lily James).
This film is excellent at showing the harrowing consequences of fatherly pressure and toxic masculinity (the boys are told not to cry at a brother’s funeral). I was on the edge of my seat the entire run time and was enthralled by the amazingly choreographed fight sequences. I was thoroughly invested in the tale of Von Erichs, and I could feel my heart ache as the unit grew smaller.
I expected to go into the film hating and loathing Fritz as a villain, but I think Holt McCallany does an excellent job of portraying a conflicted dad, one who wants his sons to be strong and survive a cruel world, but is sadly clouded by his own ambition, that he puts above his children’s wellbeing.
The soundtrack is superb too with a fine selection of classic rock, one standout scene was when Mike puts on Tom Sawyer by Rush that scores his brothers victory.
This is seriously a contender for one of my favourite A 24 films. If you want a film that both explores the toxic family dynamic but also has amazing action spectacles, I highly recommend you watch Iron Claw.