The Iron Claw (2023) Review
A24's biopic of the professional wrestling world is a spectacle not to be missed, recalling the tragic events that brought about the infamous myth of the "Von Erich curse". And despite its minimal botches, Director Sean Durkin proves his worth, delivering a satisfyingly-haunting product that garners maximum heat from those lucky enough to witness his greatest film to date.
During the boom period of professional wrestling in the 1980s, World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) showcased the highly-coveted Von Erich brothers: Kevin (Zac Efron), David (Harris Dickinson) and Kerry (Jeremy Allen White), with their fourth sibiling Mike (Stanley Simmons) watching from ringside. Always pushed by their father and former pro-wrestler, Fritz Von Erich (Holt McCallany), the four brothers had an inseparable bond brought about by their family values and mutual respect for one another. But like many before them, the physical and emotional scars of professional wrestling would loom over them forever in what would become known as the "Von Erich curse". The Iron Claw, appropriately named after the family's finishing move, focuses on the relationship between the four brothers, rarely focusing on the world beyond at least one of their perspectives. This personal journey allows audiences to become engaged with each brother through their highest of highs and subsequent lows. Kevin's point of view is given premier spotlight throughout the course of the film, a decision that becomes more understandable as the plot progresses while simultaneously allowing Zac Efron to showcase his career-best performance. Efron delivers raw emotion and earnest country civility, always looking out for his younger brothers and making sure they reach for whatever they want in life: in and outside the ring. Despite her limited screentime, Lily James also does a wonderful job portraying Kevin's better half Pam. James and Efron possess decent chemistry in what little time they have together, only getting more as the film enters its tumultuous second and third acts. Simons and Dickinson also do well as brothers Mike and David, with Jeremy Allen White being the standout among the younger three, rivalling Efron for the best performance in Iron Claw. White, although being absent for much of the first act, leaves a lasting impression as the story unfolds, showcasing the loving bond he possesses with all his brothers through subtle smirks and meaningful conversations with Kevin. The Iron Claw is less of a wrestling movie and more of a biopic that focuses on the mutual bond four brothers forever hold for one another. Every performance is at the very least serviceable, with Efron and White being the premier amid the passable. And while some may be looking for longer scenes of actual wrestling, the moments of wrestling that are on display wouldn't look out of place in any major promotion today. Sean Durkin's passion for one of pro-wrestling's most legendary families is clearly evident in The Iron Claw, paying off in a massive way for the relatively-small time director as he delivers his best film to date and one of the best wrestling films of all time.