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The only thing I knew about wresting before walking into The Iron Claw was what I learned on that one canceled Netflix series, GLOW, and this one time I ran into professional WWE wrestler Bayley in a tattoo shop. I didn’t know who she was, but my friend did, and I got a quick talk with some WWE history that day. Needless to say, I am not the target audience for this film… or am I?
I had heard The Iron Claw was a real tearjerker, and I love a good A24 movie, so I set out to see a movie about these three boys tackling life.
The Iron Claw is based on the real-life story of the Von Erich family. The family is one of the toughest and strongest in wrestling, surrounded by what people called a curse. But what’s crazy is that director and writer Sean Durkin left out even more family tragedy to consolidate the story. There were a couple timeline errors, like what year certain things happened, and there was a sixth brother who was cut to condense time.
It sets up a really good family dynamic – how the boys respect their father. It’s almost like a duty, how they follow their father and wrestle with their brothers. In terms of classic storytelling, the real antagonist of this film is easily the father, Fritz Von Erich. He ranks his kids and tells them so, there’s an intense tension in the air when he’s around, he doesn’t want to talk about emotional problems with his boys but tells them whatever they do wrong. The boys don’t notice and hold everything on their own shoulders, but Lily James’ character, Pam, tells Kevin Von Erich to not blame himself. If there’s anyone to blame, she says to blame his father.
That being said, the film shows a lot of competition among the brothers to impress their father. In the film there are five brothers. The oldest brother dies at a very young age, making Kevin Von Erich (Zac Efron) the eldest. Then there’s David (Harris Dickinson), Kerry (Jeremy Allen White), Mike (Stanley Simons), and Chris, who is not portrayed in the movie. In terms of pacing, the exclusion of the sixth brother makes sense; he wasn’t as big in wrestling as the others but would meet the same fate as one of his brothers.
There is competition among these brothers, sibling rivalries that are intensified by the heat of their father. Director Sean Durkin does a solid job of showing that these boys have a soft side towards each other. They love their family, especially Kevin. He seems to have what is described by his future wife, Pam, as “oldest brother syndrome.” He wants to make his father proud, but he wants his brothers to be there with him, and it’s clear by the way they speak. Kevin and David have a sentimental scene at Kevin’s wedding where they talk about health and pushing workouts too much, and Kevin expresses his fears that his brother is working too hard. Durkin does so well at making every slightly sensitive scene huge. It was a couple sentences here or there, but by the time a different strike of the curse would hit, I yearned for the love again.
With all this emotion, there’s still wrestling. There are these huge guys in tights beating the absolute wind out of each other. There’s coordinated wrestling montages that are otherworldly to watch as bright ’80s colors clash with the flowing hair of the Von Erich boys.
The film was visually stunning. It was just cheesy enough to be in the ’80s world of wrestling but not enough to make me cringe.
I had high hopes because of A24, Efron, and Allen White, but it exceeded my expectations. The acting in this film was phenomenal. Zac Efron, I will get you an award. Without spoiling too much, his character gives a heart-clenching line at the end of the film. When all the ruckus is done with wrestling, he settles down and life slows down. He’s still young, but a different path is set out for him.
This movie had me doing more research about the Von Erich family, where they are now, and even watching their real matches. It’s exciting, but to know what was going on is heartbreaking. I ached for my brothers, for my family.
A tear-jerker with no other word that indescribable.
The Iron Claw screens through Thursday, January 18th.
Monday, Jan 8th – 8:15pm
Tuesday, Jan 9th – 5:15pm
Wednesday, Jan 10th – 2:30pm, 8pm
Thursday, Jan 11th – 5:15pm
Friday, Jan 12th – 2:30pm
Saturday, Jan 13th – 5:15pm
Sunday, Jan 14th – 1:30pm
Monday, Jan 15th – 5pm
Tuesday, Jan 16th – 2pm
Wednesday, Jan 17th – 5pm
Thursday, Jan 18th – 5:15pm