Movie: The Iron Claw
Production Companies: Access Entertainment, BBC Film, House Productions
Director: Sean Durkin
Producers: Tessa Ross, Juliette Howell, Angus Lamont, Sean Durkin, Derrin Schiesinger
Scriptwriter: Sean Durkin
Main Cast: Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, Maura Tierney, Holt McCallany, Lily James
Release Date: February 9th 2024 (UK)
Running Time: 132 minutes
God damn whatever about Margot Robbie being snubbed because Zac Efron had an even better case for being robbed. Now am I just saying this as an annoyed wrestling fan and reviewer? Probably yes but having watched the Iron Claw this is easily the best wrestling film since the Wrestler. And a large part of this was down to the chemistry between Efron, White and Dickinson as they explored the frankly brutal world of pro wrestling in the 60s and 70s. Oh, and even if you say you’re not going to cry, The Iron Claw will break you at some point because it’s heartbreaking without knowing the context, but with it it hits like a wrecking ball. Anyway, let’s get into my review of the film.
The Iron Claw follows the Von Erich Family and their WCCW wrestling promotion in Texas during their heyday. The film focuses on the sons of Fritz Von Erich (McCallany), Kevin (Efron), Kerry (White), David (Dickinson) and to a lesser extent Mike as the sons all go into their fathers WCCW promotion and attempt to make their way in the wrestling business. However, for as good as the highs are, The Von Erichs begin to experience tragedy after tragedy leading Kevin to question whether the curse is real. Throughout all the tragedy, Kevin has to balance his dreams with being there for his wife, Pam (James) as they attempt to raise their daughter while not letting Fritz down.
Zac Efron’s Performance in The Iron Claw
I mean there’s no better place to start than the lead star: Zac Efron and his incredible turn as Kevin Von Erich. Not only does Efron nail the wrestling side with some particularly impressive diving crossbodies but he also does a great job in capturing the pain and joy of Kevin. An example of this is Kevin, David and Kerry winning the 6 Man Tag Championships one scene before Kevin has to process that Mike has toxic shock syndrome and can’t wrestle again the next. So much of this is told through his facial expressions and body language as his shoulders and demeanour sag knowing that Mike can never fulfil the dream of wrestling again.
Also, Kevin Von Erich loves Efron’s performance tells you all you need to know. On the topic of the wrestling sequences, Efron nails it not just with the moves but also in terms of crowd involvement. Look at the scene where Kevin is wrestling Harley Race. You can see Efron hanging on as long as possible before re-entering the ring. Honestly, I was getting very into the matches throughout the film….
The Portrayal of Wrestling in The Iron Claw
Another huge highlight is how wrestling is shown throughout the Iron Claw. Despite all the tragedy that befell the Von Erich Family, Durkin manages to find a positive within the wrestling world. Again, take the scene where the Von Erichs win the 6 Man Championships. Despite not featuring too much, it still feels like the Von Erichs have climbed the mountain together. However for every high, Durkin produces a low with Kevin getting disqualified against Ric Flair. Again, props to Efron here who is overcome by grief and rage as he refuses to relinquish Flair from the Iron Claw submission move.
Sidenote, it was always going to be hard but my god Flair is the weakest part of the film. Anyway, again the use of close ups and low angle shots show how ultimately powerless Kevin was to stop the pain he went through. But to bring it back to the pure wrestling moves, huge credit goes to Chavo Guerrero for getting the cast up to scratch with some beautiful moves. Also, it feels like you’re watching a match which is an amazing feeling to be honest.
To summarise the Iron Claw, this is a wonderfully brilliant yet brutal look into the lives of one of wrestling’s biggest dynasties throughout their highest highs and lowest lows. To steal a quote from my Letterboxd review, no film has ever made me question my sexuality more all whilst being on the brink of tears. Even if you’ve never really liked wrestling, the sheer humanity in this film will speak to you in some way….
Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent
Target Audience: 15+
Content Warning: Moderate Violence and Gore, Mild Sex and Nudity, Moderate Profanity, Moderate Alcohol, Drugs and Smoking, Moderate Frightening and Intense Scenes