Success Has A Steep Price

The Iron Claw
Stars: Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, Maura Tierney, Holt McCallamy,  Lily James and Michael  Harney
Director/Scriptwriter: Sean Durkin
Composer: Richard Reed Parry
Cinematography: Matyas Erdely
BBC House Productions/A24/Lionsgate
Rating: R for violence
Running Length: 133 Minutes

Wrestling has been thought of as a sport and as entertainment.  The latter on almost every television channel in the country. The former, as a sport, goes back centuries to Greek and Roman history. In-between, there are families to whom wrestling is an honor to perform, which including crushing an opponent’s forehead (Iron Claw) or jumping from the top rope the ring, doing a somersault and landing on the opponent with enough velocity to virtually crush them into the mat. Growing up In my city, this was Saturday night TV watching. My father and his friends went to a professional wrestling match that had come to our city.  One wrestler was beating up on Father’s favorite, where upon Dad grabbed a chair and started toward the ring to rescue his favorite.  Fortunately, guards intervened and the group went home in disgrace.   My favorite wrestling movie had been “The Wrestler”  with Mickey Rourke in a star role and a favorite scene in which he and his wrestling partner are gathering items from a hardware store for their next match.  Rourke turns to his friend and says, “Don’t forget the bug spray,” that went along with folding chair and, baseball bat.ow comes a serious film on professional wrestling, “The Iron Claw” and the true story of the Von Erich family, headed by father Fritz Von Erich (Holt McCallamy) and mother, Doris (Maura Tierney). Wrestling is almost a sacred sport here and perfection is needed for everything under Dad’s rule.  The only thing wrong is that the Von Erich family seems to have fallen under a curse, as far as longevity is concerned. Live fast and die young. Wrestling gets center stage.

This film begins in 1979 with the Texas Heavyweight Champion Wrestler, Kevin (Zac Efron in a stunning performance) The father  is pushing his younger son, Mike (Stanley Simons) too hard to become a top wrestling team with Kevin against Bruiser Brody and Gino Hernandez. Kevin begins to date Pam (Lily James.) He tells her of the family curse. The family of wrestlers is climbing the ladder of success, now,  including matches against Harley Race and others. Years pass and now there are three brothers, Kevin, Fritz and David as a three-some and win a championship with David to fight Ric Flair. 

What makes “The Iron Claw” a top film is the cinematography by Matyas Erdely that captures literally each muscle twitch, and Zac Efron’s performance as Kevin. He worries about his brothers, and wonders about stepping away from this dangerous sport, and it shows on Efron’s face, and his body muscles that took months to build. Maura Tierney is the mother, who emotionally steps away from this sport and lets her husband, take the reins of the family. Holt McCallamy as the father is really the villain in disguise, ruling with an steel intent to make his sons star wrestling/performers. It is grueling to watch at times with the actors doing their own stunts. In the meantime, deaths are happening.

Mickey Rourke’s “The Wrestler” went from some humor at the beginning to emotionally distraught, but not to the depth of  “The Iron Claw.” . You can see this scenario in any sport, with a parent pushing the children to practice, practice and practice some more. This family curse begins to take its toll starting with one son and then continuing. One brother is even crippled, yet keeps on wrestling. The audience wonders, “who is next?”  In real life, Ric Flair's daughter, Charlotte Flair, carries on their family wrestling legacy.

Copyright 2024 Marie Asner