Plot: What’s it about?
I was unfamiliar with the story of the Von Erich family prior to seeing The Iron Claw, but it is a fascinating and tragic story of brotherhood, who shared their love of the sport of wrestling together. If one didn’t know that this was a fact-based film, it might be easy to dismiss much of what’s seen as melodrama. Well, it is true, albeit with some liberties taken. It also shows what a great actor Zac Efron can be if given the right material. But really, it’s a film filled with great performances across the board and demands a viewing, even if it may do a number after a while. That is it is a film filled with countless tragedies.
We begin in 1979 with Kevin (Zac Efron) as one of the many Von Erich brothers we’ll meet. Kevin is the oldest brother after the death of his older brother as a child. The other brothers we’re introduced to here are Kerry (Jeremy Allen White), David (Harris Dickinson) and Mike (Stanley Simons). Their father, Fritz (Holt McCallany) was once a pro-wrestler, but has taken to doing promotions, and he’s largely trying to get his boys where they need to be with their wrestling careers. In an early scene, we hear him discuss the rankings of his favorite sons in order, while reminding them that the order can change at any time. We see these brothers work their way up and make names for themselves, but it doesn’t take long before tragedy strikes. Some may know the story behind the film, but I will still refrain from spoiling the specifics as seeing it unfold over the course of the film should keep the viewer invested. Wrestling fans should enjoy those sequences but do note that this is not an outright sports film so much as a story about a family faced with several tragedies but kept plowing ahead. What’s interesting here too is that while Kevin maintains the spotlight, we see the other brothers get their moment to shine, and the hurdles they face.
The Iron Claw isn’t always an easy film to sit through, but it kept me with it during the run time. I got sad at several points, but I loved the bonding and brotherhood that is on display here. It all feels authentic and earned, and never forced. I can see why these brothers enjoy wrestling and each other’s company while they are doing it. Director Sean Durkin spoke of how he deliberately kept one of the brothers out of the picture as he said it would’ve simply been too many deaths for one film. I can see that argument. Still, the film needs to be seen whether one is familiar with the true story or not. It makes me want to know more about this family. I would like to see a documentary sometime as well. Recommended.
The Bottom Line
Certainly not an easy film to sit through due to the tragedies on display. Still, The Iron Claw is a sad and effective film about brotherhood and wrestling involving a family who had to overcome endless hurdles in their lives. It is one of the better and most effective films I’ve seen recently. Check it out.