The Iron Claw Trailer
(Photo Credit: A24)

The Iron Claw Review: A Tragic A24 Masterpiece

Every year, A24 throws a few hats in the ring for the best movies of the year. This year, we’ve had films like Past Lives, Dream Scenario, and The Zone of Interest. While each of these films had its merits, I knew that I found my favorite A24 movie of the year when I went to an early screening of The Iron Claw. From writer-director Sean Durkin, this phenomenal masterpiece follows the Von Erich family, a dynasty of professional wrestlers that were wildly successful in the 1980s. But in the midst of their glamour, they found themselves dealing with tragedy at every turn.

This movie is heartbreaking. But it does not start out that way. The film opens with a lot of traditional sports movie excitement, with wrestler Fritz Von Erich doing his signature move known as the Iron Claw. We learn early on that the family does not have a lot of money, but Fritz’s sons intend to carry out his legacy as the greatest family of wrestlers in the world. The film offers tons of exciting wrestling action that any fan of the sport will eat up. There are thrilling sequences that take you along for the ride as if you’re watching a real match, all allowing this to feel like the traditional feel-good sports movie.

Our protagonist is Kevin Von Erich, played perfectly by Zac Efron. Early on, Kevin takes after his father, and we get a sense of his skill in the ring. Durkin directs the wrestling action to perfection, utilizing the sound design to put you in his head. Just like many movies in the sports genre, when Kevin gets knocked down, you want to see him get back up. The soundtrack enhances the experience, allowing you to go through a unique time with this film. The music choices are excellent, and Durkin crafts something so beautiful and exciting.

At the core of this story is a family of brothers. The brotherly bond is strong throughout, and The Iron Claw does a great job of establishing their relationship early on. Setting up each of them as they all want to become the biggest wrestlers in the world. The film captures pure joy and pure tragedy in these moments, showcasing the euphoria of the good times and the horror as everything comes crashing down. It’s a grounded look at heartbreak and the complicated nature of familial relationships. There are relationships between the brothers, but there is also the complex connection between a father and son.

It’s a tale about toxic masculinity and what it means to “be a man.” Durkin showcases the paradoxical nature of what society expects of men and the costs that it can have. There are moments here that will make you gasp in a story surrounding a father who pushes his sons to the limits. It can be hard to watch at times because this is a wrestling movie that does not shy away from the horrors people go through in the sport. The true story of what happened to the Von Erich family is one that you don’t have to be a wrestling fan to feel every bit of tragedy and pain that they went through.

What starts as an exciting, hopeful wrestling movie eventually takes a tragic turn. The Iron Claw expertly subverts sports movie tropes in a fashion similar to Million Dollar Baby. We’ve seen the uplifting, victorious sports movies. Durkin’s phenomenal screenplay seems like it will take you there at first. However, you’ll soon find that this movie rips your heart out with its devastating turns. At the center of it all is Efron, who has spent much of his mainstream career in musicals and comedies. With his transformative, gut-wrenching performance as Kevin Von Erich, it’s a shame that he’s not getting nominated for more awards this season. He is outstanding.

But the ensemble cast meets him at every turn. We have Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, and Stanley Simons, who all bring something layered and tragic to their roles. Maura Tierney and Lily James both provide wonderful portrayals of their roles. Holt McCallany brings something exceptional to his role as a father as it can be hard to like him, but he’s so believable as someone who wants to see his kids succeed. Fritz Von Eich was not the best father, but he built something special that ended up coming crashing down. Everyone in this cast fully commits themselves to the story of the Von Erich family. It’s an exceptionally emotional movie, particularly toward the latter half of the movie. The final few minutes may bring tears to the eyes of any viewer as invested in this story as I was.

SCORE: 9/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 9 equates to “Excellent.” Entertainment that reaches this level is at the top of its type. The gold standard that every creator aims to reach.

Disclosure: ComingSoon attended a press screening for our The Iron Claw review.

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