Sean Durkin’s ‘The Iron Claw‘ is yet another dropkick victory for A24 in a year loaded films that were more nap inducing than enthralling.
To say that Writer/Director Sean Durkin’s ‘The Iron Claw‘ is ‘World Class‘ is the understatement of the 21st Century. Durkin, having grown up a professional wrestling fan and followed the lives of the Von Erich family through their years of running, promoting and owning World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW), not only shows his love for the industry, but also his great attention to detail in capturing the love Texas had for one of the greatest family legacies.
‘The Iron Claw‘ follows the Von Erich Curse that began with Fritz Von Erich (Holt McCallany), who in the 1950s played one of the most dastardly heels in all of professional wrestling…a Nazi sympathizer. However, over the years and a babyface turn (becoming a good guy), Von Erich embraced the American way of life and created a family legacy along with his wife Doris (Maura Tierney) that featured Kevin (Zac Efron), David (Harris Dickinson), Kerry (Jeremy Allen White), Mike (Stanley Simon) and Chris (erased from the biopic entirely). There is also a blink and you missed it moment of “cousin” Lance Von Erich (played by Executive Producer, and All Elite Wrestling World Heavyweight Champion, Jacob Maxwell Friedman).
The tragedy that this family endured is beyond the average person’s comprehension, but the film masterfully reflects that throughout the 2-hour runtime. Yes, certain things needed to be changed and erased, like David’s two marriages and the loss of his daughter, Mike’s injury taking place in Israel and not in Texas, along with his wife not being present and completely neglecting, baby brother Chris entirely, but it makes sense for the narrative of the film as a whole.
As amazing as Efron and White are in the film, the performance everyone needs to pay attention to is McCallany. They could not have found a better Fritz Von Erich anywhere else in North America. In fact, the two hardest wrestlers to cast for were Bruiser Brody (Cazzey Louis Cereghino) and Ric Flair (Aaron Dean Eisenberg). Nothing against their performances, but try as anyone might, those two wrestling personalities are beyond impossible to emulate.
Although he had a very small part as Skandor Akbar (the late Jimmy Saied Wehba), Chavo Guerrero Jr. should be fully recognized for teaching everyone in the cast how to perform these classic, 1980s, wrestling movies. Guerrero a multi-time champion and coming from the legendary Guerrero family that includes his father, Chavo Guerrero Sr. and uncles Mondo, Hector and Eddie Guerrero as well as being the grandson of legendary luchadore, Gory Guerrero.
What Guerrero was able to pull off with actors is beyond incredible, the point most indie wrestlers should be embarrassed at their lack of skills in comparison to Efron, White and Dickinson.
‘The Iron Claw‘ is about family, love, loss, tragedy and breaking generational curses. Thankfully, the real Kevin Von Erich is still around to share his story. It is one of the greatest professional wrestling movies every made, but will most likely get snubbed during awards season, as professional wrestling is the most disrespected artform in the world of entertainment.
‘The Iron Claw‘ comes to theaters from A24 on Friday, December 22, 2023.
The death curse in real life as follows:
Jack Atkisson Jr. – March 7, 1959 – Electrocution and drowning in melted snow.
Natosha Zoeanna – c. 1979 – David Von Erich’s daughter from his first marriage. She died in infancy and the marriage shortly dissolved afterward.
David Von Erich – February 10, 1984 – Inflammation of the small intestine. Survived by his widow, Patricia A. Matter.
Mike Von Erich – April 12, 1987 – Suicide by overdose, following brain damage due to toxic shock syndrome following his tour of Israel. Survived by his widow, Shani Danette Garza.
Chris Von Erich – September 12, 1991 – Suicide, shot to the head. He was very close to Mike and suffered from depression, leading to him taking his own life.
Kerry Von Erich – February 18, 1993 – Suicide, shot in the heart. Survived by his two daughters, Hallie and Lacey. Lacey Von Erich went on to wrestling for TNA Wrestling. His divorce from their mother was finalized in 1992.
- Overall Score
‘The Iron Claw’ is the greatest wrestling biopic pulled from the lives of the more tragic family the industry has ever seen. It is a film that deserves several awards but will not receive a single one because professional wrestling is the backdrop.