A&E Review

A Family Haunted By Tragedy: “The Iron Claw” Movie Review

Cast of “The Iron Claw.” Photo courtesy of IMDb. From left to right: Harris Dickinson, Zac Efron, Stanley Simons, Jeremy Allen White.

“The Iron Claw” is a film full of hurt about a family in deep denial of their pain.

There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the new film “The Iron Claw,” but it’s difficult to discern whether this is because of the plot or the actors who appear on the screen. Yet another A24 film has blown up on social media platforms, much like when Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla” took over screens in November 2023. 

Jeremy Allen White, who plays Kerry Von Erich, has quickly become the heartthrob of 2024 for our generation; in a way the movie should be thanking him for all the popularity it’s gotten. 

Zac Efron has reclaimed his acting career, proving his talent through playing extremely difficult roles again and again; his character as Kevin Von Erich in “The Iron Claw” is no exception. 

Director Sean Durkin gives viewers a look into the true story of the Von Erich family, bringing them up close and personal to the relational dysfunction that drives the story. For the Von Erich’s, family meant business and their business was professional wrestling. Father, Fritz Von Erich, raised his four boys to be professional wrestlers, pushing them over the limit to ensure their spots at the top of the industry.

Taking place in Dallas during the 1980s, the film follows the four sons’ rise to fame that ever so quickly ended in numerous tragedies. The script was written with regard to the family and the trauma they experienced, but Durkin did decide to leave out one of the sons’ stories due to fear of overwhelming the viewer. After watching “The Iron Claw,” it can be understood why Durkin made this move considering how sorrowful the film becomes. However, it feels off-putting to pick and choose which real-life tragedy should be excluded from the film. 

The storyline begins triumphantly, showing the immense success the Von Erich sons had in the wrestling industry, but quickly takes a somber turn. The plot remains consistently tragic after about a third of the way through — which was an interesting decision by Durkin. His ability to create something beautiful out of a story that is so incredibly dark is deserving of great recognition.

Durkin slightly foreshadows the tragedy by letting the audience in on how the Von Erich name has been a “cursed” last name for decades. Much like the ‘90s film “The Virgin Suicides,” death and family dynamics play a huge role in “The Iron Claw.” 

The souls and feelings of these characters are portrayed so well that the viewer can’t help but care for them. Durkin breaks down the four sons: Kevin, Kerry, David and Mike to their raw selves, exposing the immense pressure and fear of disappointment they faced from their father. 

A huge theme throughout the movie is the constant battle the boys’ father faces between being a father and a coach to his sons, never knowing where the line should be drawn. The bond the four brothers had amongst each other prevails due to their parents’ incapability to care for their kids. Unfortunately, the viewer can pick up on how the brothers also begin to battle with when to be a brother and when to be a teammate. 

Throughout the movie, we slowly watch the deterioration of every family member as they wither away from grief and guilt. The eldest brother Kevin (played by Efron) takes on the main role in the movie as he quickly becomes the last one standing. 

The viewer watches Kevin struggle with losing all of his brothers despite how hard he tries to keep them alive. By the end of the movie he has begun his own family and is a father of two sons. He faces the decision to either raise his sons how he was raised or change the trajectory of the Von Erich name, healing generational trauma. 

From watching the movie in theaters, and hearing the silent sobs across the room; the cast of the film did an outstanding job, truly embodying who the Von Erich family was.

“The Iron Claw” exposes the control that parents have over their children and the faults in parenting that can ultimately lead to tragedy. The story of the Von Erich family is an important watch and gives the viewer something to think about beyond the theater. 

Standing as one of the final movies for 2023, “The Iron Claw” is a must-watch; just don’t forget your tissues. 

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