‘What the f***’: Zac Efron’s new movie The Iron Claw prompts three-word explicit review

Watching The Iron Claw can feel like getting slammed with a metal folding chair over and over again.

So bludgeoning are the true and tragic circumstances that befell the famous Von Erich wresting family during the 1980s and ’90s, which director Sean Durkin’s film depicts.

Starting about halfway through the movie that stars Zac Efron in prime meathead mode, a shaken man sitting next to me in the theatre repeatedly whispered “What the f***?” about 50 times.

That is one wise three-word review.

Because that’s what holds back Durkin’s generally well-made film — just how punishing putting this ugly history up on-screen can be and how ultimately little pay-off there is in doing so.

At first, the four Von Erich brothers (there were actually five, but one was cut from the story for time) have a sweet “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” bond as portrayed by a somewhat unlikely ensemble of actors.

Efron makes natural sense as Kevin, the most enthusiastic fighter of the pack who nevertheless can’t wrestle much approval from his hard-nosed father/manager Fritz (Holt McCallany).

But the other performers, who are certainly expanding their horizons, find a comfortable place in the ring also. Harris Dickinson, who was hilarious as a male model in last year’s “Triangle of Sadness” is funniest as high-spirited David. Jeremy Allen White of Hulu’s “The Bear” is almost-Olympian Kerry. And Stanley Simons plays innocent musician Mike, who we’re meant to worry about.

The boys all have different dreams and personalities, yet their pop prizes competition above all else and cruelly pits them against one another.

“We all know Kerry’s my favourite,” Fritz, played like your least favourite gym teacher by McCallany, tells the family, including mum Doris (Maura Tierney). “Then Kevin, then David, then Mike. But the rankings can always change.”

The macho pressure to be the NWA world heavyweight champion in the world of fake wrestling and the unshakeable desire to please their lousy father forces each of them into the family business, whether they truly want to or not, with horrific consequences.

They call the string of terrible events “The Von Erich Curse,” when the real cause of the men’s trauma is obvious to anybody.

The Von Erichs’ story is told parallel to the meteoric rise of character-driven wrestling around the world, thanks to the family and wild characters such as Ric Flair.

The Von Erichs are popular and beloved, but privately tortured.

Kevin eventually comes to his senses with the help of his supportive, clear-eyed wife Pam (Lily James).

But by then the audience is already bruised and bloodied on the floor, and unable to stand up.

This story originally appeared in the NY Post and is reproduced here with permission.

Leave a Comment