“THE IRON CLAW” A Fitting Tribute

THE IRON CLAW Photos courtesy of A24 Pictures

Review by Susanne Nielsen

“The Iron Claw” – the name of Fritz Von Erich’s trademark grip on his opponent in his early wrestling career serves as the film’s title, and stands equally for the grip of the patriarch on his opponent but also on the lives of his sons. The Von Erichs were known as the most beloved wrestling family in Texas, and Fritz’s obsession with the sport and the machismo that informs such showmanship is at the heart of the entire family story. Director Sean Durkin’s two hour film chronicles how the Von Erichs (originally named Adkisson) followed a path of “do or die” into personal tragedy as they each grappled with their own abilities to excel and remain to this day legendary in the entire South among their adoring fans. Scenes from the packed hall and the acrobatics of the sport are among the highlights of “The Iron Claw.”

A biopic of the Von Erichs seemed overdue, and the cast delivers a fitting tribute, at center stage Zack Efron as the second son, NWA award winner Kevin Von Erich who, doggedly obeying his father’s obsession to bring home the World Championship award, and failing on a coin toss to be chosen by his father to do so, is soon rejected more and more by his father. The patriarch (the first scene in black and white best portrays the image of the unforgiving wrestler) will have the winning trophy belt – and one of his sons – it seems no matter which of them – must win it to uphold the family reputation. One by one, Fritz brings them all into the family sport of wrestling, insists they dedicate their lives to their father’s dream of being rewarded for doing well.

THE IRON CLAW Photos courtesy of A24 Pictures

Efron especially, excellently portrays the efforts of each son to please his father (played icily by Holt McCallany) – and the disappointment of not attaining this father’s approval or love. The rest of the Von Erich cast, Jeremy Allen White as Kerry Von Erich, Harris Dickinson as David Von Erich, and Maura Tierney as distant Doris Von Erich, were well chosen to show aspects of this true story of devotion and fear to an all-powerful patriarch, to his cause, and a continued self-fulfilling “curse” that brought one family tragedy after another, from accidents to suicides (the last one omitted by the director) , that are difficult to watch and comprehend, surely the director’s well intended drama, and a testament to wrestling with its immense physical and psychological impact.

The actors show both, the sport is portrayed with its fan base and well-choreographed stunts, and its often detrimental finale.

Kevin Von Erich, despite so many losses, soldiers on at the center of the story, and as we learn, living to continue his father’s dream, this in the epitaph to a very sad family story and a tribute to the power of wrestling as an integral part of American sports.

THE IRON CLAW Photos courtesy of A24 Pictures

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, Holt McCallany, Maura Tierney, Stanley Simons
Directed and written by: Sean Durkin
Genre: Biography, Sport, Drama
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language, suicide, some sexuality and drug use
Running Time: 2 hrs. 12 min.
Opening Date: February 9, 2024 PVOD, and March 19, 2024 on 4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and VOD