top of page

REVIEW: The Iron Claw

The Iron Claw was as much about family as it was about professional wrestling, an aspect that may be lost on non-wrestling fans when deciding whether to watch this film.

(Warning: There are some spoilers ahead, but hopefully nothing major.)

Director Sean Durkin does a fantastic job of telling the tragic and at times unbelievable story of The Von Erichs, a family that themselves believed to be cursed, and had the so-called curse play on a national stage.

Were there some historical inaccuracies in re-telling the story? Sure - chief among them Kerry's motorcycle accident taking place the same night he won the NWA Championship, and the fact that Chris Von Erich doesn't even exist in this universe - but the same can be said for most biopic films these days. This is entertainment and we know certain facts need to be altered to allow for the flow of a major Hollywood film. No real issues there.

I did find Zac Efron to be an unusual choice to play Kevin Von Erich, given even at Kevin's peak, he wasn't nearly that bulky (as opposed to Kerry)... but I do understand the rationale, given Kevin is the film's main character and you want someone with box-office appeal to play that role. And truthfully, Efron does a fantastic job conveying the emotions of someone fighting for his father's love while seeing a combination of fame, fortune and tragedy unfold all around him.

In fact, all four (not five) of the Von Erich brothers to compete in the ring were very good, not only in their understanding of the roles, but as a group of young brothers trying to have fun in the 1970s and 1980s while still starring in the family business. In particular, Stanley Simons stood out as Mike Von Erich, the one brother who did not really want to pursue a career in the ring, but did so to make his family proud. You see real conflict there, before and after the surgery that would lead to his eventual demise.

As good as the Von Erich brothers were, I thought Holt McCallany and Maura Tierney were stellar as Fritz and Doris Von Erich, respectively. With Fritz, you slowly saw the villainous side of him emerge, less concerned about his children and more about his legacy on the wrestling business. And with Doris, I would have actually liked to have seen more of her in the film, as nothing can quite show tragedy like a grieving mother who has to go through several deaths of her sons.

Rounding out the main cast were Lily James as Kevin's supportive yet independent-minded wife Pam, and Orange Is The New Black's Michael Harney doing a great Bill Mercer.

Turning the actual in-ring scenes, the hype is real; these ARE the most realistic wrestling scenes I've ever seen in a film before, and everyone involved deserves huge credit for taking that seriously. Nothing in the film looked "fake" and that is very tough to pull off. And let's give them tons of props for capturing the rowdy Sportatorium atmosphere, both inside and outside the building.

The famous competitors that took on The Von Erich boys, including The Shiek (Chavo Guerrero), Bruiser Brody (Cazzey Louis Cereghino), Gino Hernandez (Ryan Nemeth) and Harley Race (Kevin Anton) did more than passable jobs portraying their real-life counterparts, although would it have killed Aaron Dean Eisenberg to do a more accurate Ric Flair impression? Even his "Woooooo!" made me cringe a bit. To be fair, Eisenberg has said he intentionally was trying not to mimic The Nature Boy.

Overall, I think Durkin did a great job of bringing the Von Erich story to life in a major motion picture, capturing a tragic story with the seriousness it deserves, along with a range of emotions to make even the most jaded filmgoer feel bad for the aftermath. Definitely worth seeing.



bottom of page