Review: The Iron Claw is a powerful reminder of the human spirit being both enduring and fragile. It’s a movie that redefines what a sports movie can be, leaving viewers emotionally spent and profoundly moved. This is, without a doubt, one of 2023’s greatest achievements in filmmaking, a confirmed *masterpiece* that will linger in your mind and heart long after the final bell rings.
Just as 2023 prepares to wrap up, Sean Durkin and A24 have thrown a gut-wrenching curveball with The Iron Claw. This isn’t just a typical sports drama; it’s a suplex of emotions and unthinkable circumstances, a portrait of a family bound by both tragedy and unwavering loyalty, grounded in the real-life saga of the Von Erich brothers.
Forget the hazy Texas vibes reminiscent of Dazed & Confused and any other old school classics, The Iron Claw dives headfirst into the tragic reality of the Von Erich legacy, following four brothers who dominated professional wrestling in the 80s, all while battling a generations-long “curse” that claimed them one by one.
Leading the charge is Zac Efron, delivering a transformative performance as Kevin, the eldest brother still living (Jack Jr. passes early in The Iron Claw off-screen). Through Kevin’s eyes, we witness the intoxicating highs of professional stardom and the crippling lows that come with pushing your body to the absolute limit. Efron channels Kevin’s intensity, vulnerability, and heartbreaking descent with remarkable depth, proving once and for all his dramatic chops.
But Efron isn’t alone in tearing up the screen. Each brother shines with their own distinct portrayal. David (Harris Dickinson) embodies charisma and enigmatic charm, while Kerry (Jeremy Allen White) grapples with ambition and his inner demons. Stanley Simons, as the youngest Mike, brings both innocence and the devastating impact of tragedy being handicapped by your own family legacy (almost too literally).
Their performances are seamlessly woven together by Durkin’s direction. The Iron Claw transcends the typical sports movie, delving into complex themes of family, ambition, and the corrosive nature of the American dream. Fritz, the brothers’ iron-willed father (played with chilling brilliance by Holt McCallany), represents a system that both propels them forward and ultimately contributes to their downfall.
And Sean Durkin is not one to wallow in misery for its own sake. He wields a scalpel-sharp eye, knowing exactly when to pull back and let the weight of the tragedy speak for itself. After immersing himself in the Von Erichs’ story, he made the deliberate choice to excise several harrowing events that actually befell the family. He even chose to leave out Chris Von Erich, a fourth brother in the family to lose his life. In Durkin’s belief, one more death would have been too much for The Iron Claw. And he’s absolutely correct.
This restraint is perhaps the film’s greatest strength. Unlike filmmakers who bludgeon their audience with tragedy solely for emotional impact, Durkin hammers home his points with subtlety and respect. He understands that the Von Erichs’ story is already devastating enough, and that embellishing it would feel exploitative. Instead, he allows the narrative to unfold organically, leaving space for reflection and empathy. The result is a film that feels not only heartbreaking but authentic, earned, and strangely cathartic in small doses.
Reviews for Movies like The Iron Claw (2023)
It’s a testament to Sean Durkin’s skill and compassion, a powerful example of how less can truly be more. In the hands of many modern directors, the Von Erichs’ tale could have easily devolved into a morbid spectacle. But Durkin handles it with grace and artistry, crafting a poignant film that honors the family’s legacy while reminding us of the fragility and preciousness of life.
There’s an unnerving honesty to the film’s portrayal. It exposes the dark side of fame, the ruthless exploitation of bodies for entertainment, and the devastating consequences of ignoring mental and physical health. But within this bleakness, shines a light of unwavering brotherhood. These four boys, despite their differences and struggles, always have each other’s backs, a riveting example of the strength found in family that surpasses the ring.
The Iron Claw is a film that sticks with you long after the credits roll (as cliché as that sounds). It’s a powerful reminder of the human spirit being both enduring and fragile. It’s a film that redefines what a sports movie can be, leaving viewers emotionally spent and profoundly moved. This is, without a doubt, one of the year’s greatest achievements in filmmaking, a confirmed *masterpiece* that will linger in your mind and heart long after the final bell rings.
Watch The Iron Claw (2023) on VOD here
The Iron Claw Film Cast and Credits
Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich
Jeremy Allen White as Kerry Von Erich
Harris Dickinson as David Von Erich
Stanley Simons as Mike Von Erich
Holt McCallany as Fritz Von Erich
Maura Tierney as Doris Von Erich
Lily James as Pam Adkisson
Director: Sean Durkin
Writer: Sean Durkin
Cinematography: Mátyás Erdély
Editor: Matthew Hannam
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