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The Iron Claw (2023) Film Review

The Iron Claw – 2023 

Director: Sean Durkin 

By Darren Cunningham


The sensationalized world of professional wresting can create a lot of frenzied excitement and entertainment for many. Almost cartoonish in nature with many wrestlers creating larger than life personas that some can find appealing, and some may find absurd. One could judge it as a base sporting entertainment, yet like many things competitive, the WWE (formerly WWF), is also a huge money spinner especially in the US. Behind the hype, reality takes no hostages and wrestlers are still an aspect of life’s capricious nature in all its trials and tribulations.  

The Iron Claw, (based on a true story), chronicles the Von Erich’s, a family of brothers who are dominated over by their former professional wrestling father Fritz. Largely set in the 1980’s, the film depicts the Von Erich family at the height of their wrestling achievements yet at the crux of the film, is a drama that claws its way into the lower depths of family tragedy.

An impressively ripped Zac Efron heads the cast as Kevin Von Erich, the second oldest out of six brothers, (the film depicts five). The eldest brother brother died at 6yrs of age when Kevin was a toddler, making Kevin the eldest living brother. A youngest sixth brother was omitted from the film for narrative purposes. The truth being that the reality of the Von Erich family curse was far worse than what the film depicts.

The Von Erich children were very much controlled by their father and while it appears he meant well for his sons, he openly expressed favouritism for his boys, had his own ideal of how a man should hold and carry himself and emotion was something that should be suppressed, not expressed. It is implied that Fritz is living his life through his sons and pushed for achievements he really wanted to aspire for himself. The code he lived by and the poor decisions he made behind it, escalates to an unsettling detriment of his family. 

The brothers are depicted as loyal, (to both their father and each other) were affectionate with each other and bond well. Doris Von Erich, the wife/mother, is portrayed as aloof and in denial and is also beholden to her husband’s dominion, same as her sons are.   

Zac Efron portrays Kevin Von Erich as a warm, stoic and laconic man, who has chiselled himself out of the discipline and image his father has conditioned onto him. He has also fine-tuned himself away from the staunch representation of authority his father has imposed. Underneath his bulked-up wrestling persona, is a concealed emotion bubbling away underneath a fragile tough exterior.  What Kevin represents, is beautifully rendered and cumulates in a release that underscores one of the main thematic elements of the film.

The Iron Claw is good old-school movie making that showcases it characters and era with skill and conviction. One doesn’t have to be a fan of professional wresting to wrangle a moving experience out of this bittersweet tale of tragedy and deliverance.