The Iron Claw

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

The Iron Claw
dir-scr Sean Durkin
prd Tessa Ross, Juliette Howell, Sean Durkin, Angus Lamont, Derrin Schlesinger
with Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, Stanley Simons, Holt McCallany, Maura Tierney, Lily James, Michael J Harney, Aaron Dean Eisenberg, Kevin Anton, Brady Pierce, Chavo Guerrero Jr
release US 22.Dec.23 ,
UK 9.Feb.24
23/UK BBC 2h10

mccallany tierney james

Is it streaming?

dickinson, efron, white and simons
The astonishing true story of the Von Erich family is told through a wonderfully personal perspective, zeroing in on the bond that holds four brothers together through a series of startling events. And because they are wrestlers, the film is a fabulous parade of muscle men grappling with each other in their underpants. Writer-director Sean Durkin makes sure that the story remains up close and personal, in every way.
In the late 1970s, Fritz (McCallany) has trained one son, Kerry (White), to be an Olympic discus contender, and two other sons, Kevin (Efron) and David (Dickinson), to be wrestlers worthy of a shot at the championship title. And he also has plans for younger son Mike (Simons), who would really rather be a musician. Their mother Doris (Tierney) opts out of the chaos between all of her muscle men. As Kevin falls for Pam (James) and starts his own family, he worries that tales of the family curse might be true. Then tragedy strikes.
While the Von Erich family's story is punctuated by a series of extremely sad events, Durkin's approach is so intimate that it never feels maudlin. This isn't a story about triumph over misfortune; it's about the love and support that pulls us through a difficult situation, even when some people who are closest to us are unable to offer either. Because events are seen through Kevin's eyes, they carry an enormous emotional punch, allowing us to vividly feel the soulful and often outrageously physical connection he has with his brothers.

Efron adeptly underplays the role, allowing Kevin's somewhat thick skull to feed cleverly into the way he reacts. Kevin is the definition of a meathead, and Efron's physical and emotional transformation is astonishing. White, Dickinson and Simons are excellent as his siblings, each creating a strongly singular character. James offers a warm counterpoint, while McCallany and Tierny have the most difficult roles as parents who are caring, demanding and oddly aloof at the same time.

Durkin's ingenious storytelling makes it clear why Kevin becomes increasingly convinced that the curse is real, and it also reveals the true problem in a complex, provocative way. It isn't that Fritz and Doris don't adore their kids, but Fritz's overpowering expectations and Doris' refusal to get involved create a series of issues that combine in perilous ways. So while embracing the closeness of this family, Durkin is also offering a cautionary tale to anyone who can't let their kids be who they are.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 15.Nov.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall