The Iron Claw (2023) – Movie Review/Summary

“The Iron Claw” may not go far enough to push any specific actor into an accolade conversation, but there is no denying this movie can drive you to tears.


Community Rating: 75% (1 votes)

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Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich

“The Iron Claw” may not go far enough to push any specific actor into an accolade conversation, but there is no denying this movie can drive you to tears.

Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich
“Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich,” The Iron Claw, directed by Sean Durkin, 2023, (A24)

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General Information

Director(s)

Sean Durkin

Screenplay By

Sean Durkin

Based On Work By

The Von Erich Story

Date Released (Special Preview)

December 13, 2023

How To Watch

In Theaters

Genre(s)

Drama, Young Adult, Biopic, Sports

Film Length

2 Hours 10 Minutes

Content Rating

Rated R

Noted Characters and Cast

Kevin

Zac Efron

Fritz

Holt McCallany

Pam

Lily James

Dorris

Maura Tierney

Kerry

Jeremy Allen White

Michael

Stanley Simons

David

Harris Dickinson

Ric Flair

Aaron Dean Eisenberg

Content Rating Explanation

  • Dialog: Cursing
  • Violence: Depiction of suicide
  • Sexual Content: Implied sexual situations and minor nudity
  • Miscellaneous: drinking, smoking, and drug use

Plot Summary

Focusing on the current, only living member of the Von Erich’s, Kevin, “The Iron Claw” follows his career from being the sole Von Erich to work in his father, Fritz’s, promotion, World Class Championship Wrestling, to his brothers joining, and often surpassing him career-wise. But, while they won titles outside their dad’s promotion, Kevin was able to have some form of a normal life.

Thanks to his still wife Pam, he got to be one of the few to have a healthy relationship, and be there for his kids, and it appears as the highs of his family met a consistent sting of tragic lows; he was the only one with the support system he needed. This isn’t to downplay Fritz or the Von Erich’s matriarch, Doris, but after a certain point, all they could do is push on, if not harden, as much as they can, as they outlived one child after another.

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

Kevin

Kevin is technically the second eldest of Fritz and Dorris’ kids, but he is often seen and treated as the eldest since his older brother died when he was 5. Also, while Kevin isn’t expected to be a surrogate parent, as most eldest children are, he is a more reliable means of comfort than either parent. Because of this, Kevin seems to want that feeling of being a patriarch and having everyone under one roof, and it is his heart’s desire – alongside winning a world championship.

Fritz

Fritz is the head of the Von Erich family, and the reason the family uses the name. It is from his mother’s side, and while allegedly the “Von Erich” name is cursed, he feels that anything is possible through perseverance.

Pam

Pam is one of Kevin’s first and only love, who is his rock as tragedy after tragedy strikes.

Doris

Dorris is the Von Erich family matriarch, who might cook for the family and be a homemaker but isn’t necessarily the warmest and most fuzzy mom.

Kerry

Someone who would have been an Olympian if it wasn’t for Jimmy Carter, Kerry, like all of the Von Erichs, was an athlete. But, while the others got injured and settled into wrestling, Kerry was going to go all the way.

Michael

The youngest Von Erich brother and tallest, Michael seemed to be the breakout since he was more interested in music than wrestling. However, eventually, he did join his brothers in the ring, and it seems like for almost all the Von Erich brothers, wrestling led to his downfall.

David

While Michael was the oldest and most experienced in the ring, David was a talker. He could not only go in the ring but work a mic; because of that, it seemed like he’d quickly become the family star.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Scrapper.”

Ric Flair

The man, the myth, the legend, and one of the most decorated champions in wrestling, Ric Flair, is a rival to the Von Elrichs and persistently was the man to beat so that Fritz could have someone bring that world title to Texas.

Other Noteworthy Information

  1. Chris Von Erich, who also died tragically, is omitted if not combined with Michael.

Review


Community Rating: 75% (1 votes)


Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)Recommended | Mixed (Divisive) | Negative (Acquired Taste)

Notable Performances or Moments

The Pain of Loss

Even if you haven’t suffered the loss of a sibling or close family member, it is driven how impactful the loss is. In the early weeks of dating Pam, Kevin made it very clear he had a close relationship with his brothers and family. He expects them to live together in the same home or on shared land and grow old with them.

The way Zac Efron portrays this is so genuine that it has an innocence. Almost like a kid who thinks things will remain beautiful and fun forever, and this is with Kevin mentioning the death of his older brother, who died at 5, and his awareness of a family curse.

But, with tragedy after tragedy, you see a sledgehammer hit to that dream to the point that it becomes clear that the dream of having his entire family living together may only be possible with Pam and his kids.

I should note, Efron isn’t alone in driving tears to the point. Heck, just reminiscing about the scenes are making me teary-eyed. Dorris, the mother of the boys? Watching her have to put on a black dress for the funeral of her boys feels and looks as unnatural as wearing the same wedding dress each time you get married.

What really pushes this though is that, in most scenes, she is just staring off while getting dressed. There are no tears or wailing; they are just trying to mirror Fritz’s faith that the family will get through this. Perhaps even be stronger on the other side. However, there can only be so many sons that get buried, with almost half by suicide, that anyone can handle.

Highlights

You Get To Know Everyone Enough To Get A Emotional Connection

While Kevin is in the film the longest and gets most of the attention, this doesn’t mean everyone else is just fodder to drive Efron’s performance. Even characters like Michael, the latecomer to joining his brothers in the ring, is someone you get to know, connect with, and feel something for.

What especially helps is that, while a wrestling family, some relationships and dynamics are easy to pick up on or relate to. Whether it is feeling there is a ranking order in the family based on success, recognition of not enough being done as you’re told that’s between this person and that person, or the avoidance of warning signs because the idea is you have to be tough.

Kerry, for example, has part of his leg amputated, and you can see that, as much as he loves his brother and has been in tag matches with him, when it comes to outside the ring, they are in a constant one-on-one iron match. Who is going to be father’s favorite, who is going to work hardest, get the farthest, and while there is never a moment of disownment or being ostracized, it becomes clear, as it does for most of the family, this life is not enough.

Which, again, makes every death, whether self-inflicted or not, hit harder and harder each time.

On The Fence

Ric Flair

Ric Flair is a character in himself, so for someone to play him is a mountain of a challenge for you can’t just have the look. You need the energy, the charisma, the same “It” factor that made Ric Flair one of the most decorated champions in wrestling history.

Unfortunately, the actor who plays Ric Flair may have the look, do the walk in the ring, and surely has studied Ric Flair to a point, but he doesn’t have that special something yet to really make the performance his own. He doesn’t bring that larger-than-life feel to not be swallowed by the character he is playing.

So don’t expect to see this actor again when Ric Flair gets his own biopic.

The Wrestling Scenes Lack The Sports Movie Intensity Expected

Whether you are talking about boxing, basketball, or other sports movies, there is a energy, a pace, and drama that can come with watching a sports movie. You can see things pushed to feel like an action movie with guns and car chases, but “The Iron Claw” doesn’t have that energy.

The shots are done as you’d see back when the matches were originally televised, and because of that, while not lifeless, since you can imagine the pain felt after certain moves, they are by no means the highlight of the film.

Who Is This For?

Wrestling fans, alongside those who love family dramas where the drama isn’t from much in the way of infighting, but being related to those who are capable of reaching great heights yet struggling under the pressure to do so.

Recommendations

If you like this movie, we recommend:

  1. Southpaw
  2. The Wrestler
  3. The Creed Franchise

Check out our movies page for our latest movie reviews and recommendations.

Discussion Items

Let us know your thoughts in the comments:

  1. What wrestler would you like to see a biopic of next? I personally would want a Hulk Hogan one, but warts and all.

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The Iron Claw (2023) – Movie Review

Summary

“The Iron Claw” is probably one of the best ensemble movies this year and is bound to bring its audience to tears as they witness the curse of the Von Erichs.

Overall
80%
80%
  • The Wrestling Scenes Lack The Sports Movie Intensity Expected - 74%
    74%
  • Ric Flair - 73%
    73%
  • You Get To Know Everyone Enough To Get A Emotional Connection - 84%
    84%
  • The Pain of Loss - 89%
    89%

Highlight(s)

  • You Get To Know Everyone Enough To Get A Emotional Connection
  • The Pain of Loss

Disputable

  • The Wrestling Scenes Lack The Sports Movie Intensity Expected
  • Ric Flair

What Would Your Rating Be?

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