Movie Review on The Iron Claw (2024)

By Max Sheikh

The Iron Claw is a brand-new biopic depicting the Von Erich family. Clocking in at 132 minutes, the film wastes no time diving into the captivating, prolonged events told as a narrative by director Sean Durkin, “I can make the argument that all families are some level of cult.” This is one of the statements Sean Durkin made after the film’s release, and it could not be more relevant to the tragic narrative.  

The true story portrays the inseparable Von Erich brothers who, in the early 1980s, took the professional wrestling industry by storm. The film’s star-studded cast consisting of Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, and Holt McCallany excel in their roles. The resilience of brotherhood beautifully demonstrates the strength of their ties with one another.  

As is the case with the finest sports movies, The Iron Claw is not about sport itself, which is what makes it such a wonderful movie. There are, of course, moments that involve wrestling, and they are fantastic ones as well, the athleticism of the Von Erichs, and the extravagant life of living as a superstar. However, none of these are the primary emphasis of the movie. The Von Erich family serves as the primary focal point and the emotional center. The affection that they feel for one another, the tough business that takes place behind the squared circle, and the tragic event that follows because of all these things. This narrative is about the catastrophe that befell a family. 

Sean Durkin makes sure to convey the emotional highs and lows that are captured in the consequences of what influence a parental figure can have on their children. Toxic masculinity and the mental health effects of the wrestling industry can also be seen in the script, as the wrestlers of the time were known to hide their injuries, treat themselves with drugs, and continue to struggle with the fear of losing their position in their father’s eyes. All of this unravels, unsurprisingly, in tragedy and a heart-throbbing lesson.  

There are, of course, moments that involve wrestling, and they are fantastic ones as well, the athleticism of the Von Erichs, and the extravagant life of living as a superstar.

The film does seem to cover too much territory and has pace concerns. It also neglects key characters in its sad narrative. A narrative of this level of nuance may have been better explored through a television series rather than a feature-length film. The audience can judge Jack Von Erich, the father, since the movie doesn’t present him as complex or dynamic in any fashion. Durkin alternates between painting the character as a harsh, loving, imperfect, and determined parent who only means well immediately to an egotistical monster who kills several of his kids. A stronger movie may have focused on his role in generating a family “curse,” which is a reoccurring symbol for the Von Erichs. The story of the family is so tragic, that the film removes an entire sibling, Chris Von Erich, and his devastating demise. Nevertheless, the film still tries to cover too much ground in its attempt to portray this narrative, even without the cut of Chris Von Erich. 

There are two primary reasons why The Iron Claw is still effective in the end. Zac Efron heads up the cast. The emptiness in the character’s eyes Efron portrays is incredibly stunning from an acting standpoint. Even if there is some awkward speech in the picture, the performances are what make it worth seeing. It succeeds in touching viewers emotionally because it nails the story’s central motif of chasing your very own dream, and no one else’s. The audience can care about the Von Erichs as a family first, rather than as a gang of flamboyant entertainers that ruled the 1980s Texas wrestling scene with an untimely demise. 

Despite its few flaws, The Iron Claw accomplished what it set out to do; it humanized the Von Erichs, drawing viewers into their lives. The viewers came to care about them on a personal level-as brothers, sons, dads, spouses, and parents. Most significantly, it deepened viewers concern for them as a family. That may sound simple, considering how heartbreaking the narrative is, but is rather extremely challenging. A biopic cannot be successful based on the story’s facts alone. Having us care about the actual individuals to whom these tragedies happened is truly impressive. 


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