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‘The Iron Claw’ - beautifully devastating

Marcus Falcão / THE GATEPOST

By Jack McLaughlin

Arts & Features Editor 

To go to a movie and not know anything about it beforehand is one of life’s most refreshing activities. It doesn't happen often, and when it does there’s a chance the film will surprise you in ways you didn’t expect. 

When I heard there was an A24 movie about professional wrestling with rave reviews, it seemed like a no-brainer, so I went in expecting nothing but professional wrestling and Zac Efron. 

“The Iron Claw” emotionally suplexed me in ways I was not prepared for, and quickly rose to be one of the best films I saw last year. 

The film is based on the events of the Von Erich family in the 1980s, a dynasty of fearless wrestlers, and the story tells the rise and crushing fall of the family. 

This is a terrific example of a film that vastly exceeds its genre and can be enjoyed by anyone who doesn’t typically watch a movie centered around sports. 

I’ve never paid attention to or cared about professional wrestling, but the magic of strong performances, directing, and writing turned me into the biggest pro wrestling fan for two hours and 12 minutes. 

The sequences of wrestling are executed perfectly. You always feel the weight of each move, and they are quick and don’t take away from what's most important - the characters. 

Zac Efron is the emotional core of the family, playing the main character Kevin Von Erich. His performance here is far beyond what viewers expected from him when they first saw him in “High School Musical,” and he completely dominates the role. 

His character is forced to helplessly watch as the story unfolds, and it takes a lot of talent to pull off this level of emotional complexity. It’s truly a shame his performance was not acknowledged by the Academy Awards this year - it was one of the best leading performances of 2023.

As the film goes on, you will become more connected to each of Kevin’s brothers, who are all performed spectacularly. Of the supporting cast, Jeremy Allen White and Harris Dickinson do an amazing job as Kerry and David respectively. 

The chemistry among the brothers is fantastic - they’re all so supporting and caring of each other. It always feels like they have the best interests for them, which makes the second half of the movie all the more painful. 

When this movie begins to take darker turns, it starts to feel like this horrible car wreck that you can’t seem to get away from. You keep thinking, “There’s no way this gets any worse, right?” and as soon as you think that, something one-ups it in the most awful way possible. 

With that being said, the best way to experience “The Iron Claw” is not to do your homework on the Von Erich family. If you know close to nothing about this movie except that it’s about professional wrestling, keep it that way.

It enhanced the experience so much that it took me on a late-night trove through Wikipedia after I got home from the theater to find out what was included and excluded from the film. 

There’s a quote from the film’s director, Sean Durkin, about the creative choice to exclude one of the brothers, Chris Von Erich, from the film saying that his inclusion would have been “one more tragedy that the film couldn’t really withstand.” 

I found that information mindblowing the night I read it. It felt like the film already wasn’t holding its emotional punches, and knowing it did added to the tragedy of this story. 

Without question, “The Iron Claw” is beautifully shot, with lots of darkly lit scenes contrasting with vibrant sunny ones that perfectly capture this tragedy with glimpses of light throughout. 

This was by far one of 2023’s best films, and its neglect from any Oscar nominations is baffling, but that doesn’t stop it from being as incredible as it is. 

Rating: A

A heavyweight classic



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