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The Iron Claw
  review by Bobby Blakey

Whether you are a fan of wrestling or not there are few people that have not heard of the Von Erichs. Their legacy in wrestling is both iconic and tragic. Now Martha Marcy May Marlene director Sean Durkin is bringing their story to the big screen with the feature The Iron Claw starring Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, Stanley Simons, Maura Tierney, Holt McCallany and Lily James. Could this film actually do the legacy of this iconic wrestling family justice, or will it get pinned before it can get off the mat?


The Iron Claw follows the true story of the inseparable Von Erich brothers, who made history in the intensely competitive world of professional wrestling in the early 1980s. Through tragedy and triumph, under the shadow of their domineering father and coach, the brothers seek larger-than-life immortality on the biggest stage in sports.


Like many that grew up in Texas, I spent every Saturday watching WCCW as well as often attending live matches at the famed Dallas Sportatorium. The Von Erichs were Gods in Texas wrestling and I was a massive fan of them all. I gravitated more towards Kerry than anyone, but was always impressed with Kevin’s barefoot wrestling style. I even got sucked into the Lance Von Erich gimmick complete with an autograph from him which didn’t survive when I found out it he wasn’t even a real Von Erich. Needless to say, I was stoked to see this film, but had my reservations.


Knowing this story, you know it is going to be heavy, but wasn’t sure they could make it work well to capture everything these people had done, but I am happy to say they did just that. Sure there are elements left out, changed 

and even altered including Chris Von Erich which I can only assume was just to tone down the already hefty weight of death and tragedy in the story. I didn’t feel that anything that was adjusted here affected the film in a negative way as they can only do so much in a straight up film, but not sure how much it will annoy purists.


I have grown to be a fan of Efron, but honestly wasn’t initially keen on him being Kevin and really saw him with his size and look being more Kerry. Even with this I can say that he does an amazing job in the role carrying the most burden of the film along with the burden Kevin himself carries through life from all the sadness and tragedy that this family endured. I have been a fan of Jeremy Allen White since his run on Shameless so was excited to see him getting something meatier to work with and he kills it as Kerry. HE has a a lot to deal with physically and emotionally here and shines through easily with one of the best performances of his career in my opinion.


Dickson and Simons round out the brothers as David and Mike. Both are great as well with Dickson having the best look of the bunch in terms of realism and them both embodying the roles to perfection. For this entire film to work regarding the family, they had to have a powerful performance to bring Fritz to life and is done so perfectly by Holt McCallany. I think he brought so much love, anger, jealousy and all around callous abusive behavior to the character without ever being a full-on bad guy that you hate. He was who he was good or bad and it created the champions we all love no matter the cost of it all.


Outside of life and family drama, it’s the wrestling side that is front and center. If this doesn’t come off believable then you don’t have Von Erichs. It is impressive the work everyone here did in not only their physical transformations, but the skills they trained and showcased in the squared circle. There are tons of great in ring moments and an excellent recreation of the Sportatorium that pulls you right into each and every in-ring moment.


If I had to bring any complaints it comes in some of the casting of other icons. The biggest being that of Ric Flair. Aaron Dean Eisenberg takes on the challenge of the role and does fine, but you just can’t recreate Ric Flair so it never fully pulls you in like it should. The same can be said for a few of the others, but thankfully it doesn’t hurt the film overall in any way and they all still gave great performances. Big props to the number of icons they have portrayed to populate the story with most just background or in ring opponents.


I loved this film as much if not more than I hoped I would and so glad to see it getting the praise it so richly deserves. In addition to the film this release offers up bonus content including trailer, Q&A and featurette on bringing the story of this wrestling icon family to the big screen. Step into the ring and grab your copy of The Iron Claw when it hits Blu-ray and DVD on March 26th from Lionsgate and A24.

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