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REVIEW: A24 steps into the ring with “The Iron Claw” movie

Illustration+of+Harris+Dickinson%2C+Jeremy+Allen+White+and+Zac+Efron+as+the+Von+Erich+brothers+in+their+wrestling+attire.+The+Iron+Claw+was+released+in+movie+theaters+on+Dec.+22%2C+2023+--+Go+check+it+out%21+
Gabrielle Caumon / Hilltop Views
Illustration of Harris Dickinson, Jeremy Allen White and Zac Efron as the Von Erich brothers in their wrestling attire. “The Iron Claw” was released in movie theaters on Dec. 22, 2023 — Go check it out!

A24 returns to theaters with a powerful brotherhood movie directed by Sean Durkin, debuting in December 2023. Thinking “The Iron Claw” would be all about wrestling, I mainly went to watch it because of the esteem I have for the A24 film company. I have to say that I completely misjudged the movie at first glance. The storyline of this film is fantastic, and I left the theater with puffy, red eyes.

“The Iron Claw” delves into the Von Erich family, an emblematic wrestling dynasty from the 70s. From fights inside the ring to life’s battle against the so-called “Von Erich curse,” we follow the rise of this family to their downfall. 

Warning: there are a lot of curly mullets, skimpy wrestling shorts and sweaty muscles popping out of tight tank tops throughout the movie.

 

The Cast

The casting for this movie is exceptional. There is a real bond perceptible on screen between the four Von Erich brothers. The spectator can feel their fraternal relationship going from love to hatred, with an obvious sibling rivalry that goes along with it. They are inseparable, acting almost like a pack of wolves. 

I have always associated Zac Efron with Troy from High School Musical, so I was a bit skeptical when I saw his face on the poster. However, as soon as the movie started, my jaw dropped instantly over his insane physical transformation. To look the most accurate to Kevin Von Erich, Efron rigorously prepared for 7 to 8 months, and the result is impressive. Not to mention his outstanding and poignant performance that gave me goosebumps. 

Efron blew me away — and he was not the only one. Jeremy Allen White (Kerry Von Erich), Harris Dickinson (David Von Erich) and Stanley Simons (Mike Von Erich) were astonishing in their meticulous portrayal of the Von Erich brothers. They all captivate the audience in their own way. 

Lily James, who incarnates Pam Adkisson, did a remarkable job keeping up with the other cast members. Indeed, James has a significant role since Pam is the mainstay of Kevin, his lifebuoy to which he clings to. She brings some warmth, femininity and glamor to the movie, allowing viewers to feel at ease for small moments inside this voluminous tragedy. James and Efron have such a great dynamic together, and I find it fascinating how Pam is the one taking the lead in their relationship since this movie is centered around virility. 

Last but not least, Holt McCallany, who embodies the charismatic Fritz Von Erich, simply left me speechless. In his paternal figure role, Fritz tends to appear tyrannical, pushing his sons to be the toughest and the strongest so nothing could ever hurt them. He is the one who builds and feeds the competitiveness in the ring between the Von Erich brothers. Despite the tough and exigent expectations Fritz has, he remains a touching character. He is just a father who wants to protect his household. Fritz loves his family and he doesn’t want them to struggle as he did. 

 

The Script 

Even though I knew nothing about wrestling, I found myself truly invested in “The Iron Claw.” There is a certain finesse in Durkin’s writing. Named after Fritz’s professional wrestling move, the movie is oriented on sport, which doesn’t necessarily resonate with everyone. Yet, Durkin managed to realize an outstanding piece that everyone can empathize with. 

More than wrestling, “The Iron Claw” is an incredible depiction of family, loss and manhood. The story is told from Kevin’s perspective, so the spectator gets to be in the middle of the Von Erich brothers’ energy. It is so interesting how the movie brings Kevin’s life in a full circle through his various father-son moments. There are so many genuine moments that all siblings can relate to — the attachment we have for those brothers strengthens as the movie goes on, making their downfall even worse. 

That’s why Durkin compares “The Iron Claw” with an epic Greek tragedy. When you remember that it is a true story, “The Iron Claw” takes a heel turn and leaves a completely different impact. Realizing how this family suffered transposes the pain from the screen to the spectator. All those events were unbelievable. I was screaming in my head: “When is it gonna stop?” 

 

Cinematography

Durkin totally immerses the spectator in the 70s and 80s aesthetic. Everything in the movie contributes to the atmosphere, from the retro costumes to the energetic soundtrack and the grainy, vintage-looking filter. 

The shots are painfully beautiful, showcasing blood, sweat and tears. Durkin opted for a raw style of shooting, putting the spectator further into the ambiance of the wrestling matches. I particularly liked the close-ups on the Von Erich brothers inside the ring because it made the viewer feel more intimate with them. I even felt more engaged, as I wanted them to win. 

The editing helped with these portrayals as well. The transitions from the live wrestling ring to watching it on a television screen in someone’s house brings freshness to the movie, adding some relevance to the fighting sequences. It also gives an intriguing contrast: a gritty wrestling match set directly against a home TV set.

Overall, this movie is a pure gem. I definitely recommend seeing it. I have not sobbed that much during a movie for a long time — and you will want to call your siblings right afterwards. I give “The Iron Claw” a well-earned 5 out of 5 goats.

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About the Contributor
Gabrielle Caumon, Staff Writer
Gabrielle Caumon is a junior from Paris, France, who is pursuing a major in the BFA Acting program and a minor in Journalism. This is her second semester writing for Hilltop Views and her first as a Staff Writer. She loves writing for the Life & Arts section, and is excited to branch out and try out other genres.

Comments (4)

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  • V

    Vector Jean-PhillipeFeb 21, 2024 at 5:02 am

    Really thought-provoking, you have a wonderful insight into film. Eager to see your next column

    Reply
  • B

    Brian MoloneyFeb 7, 2024 at 12:29 pm

    My hopes are so high to see it now. Your way with words is so elegant. Merci pour tes articles.

    Reply
  • B

    BennethFeb 6, 2024 at 11:01 am

    I can’t wait to go watch it !

    Reply
  • C

    Castex DeniseFeb 6, 2024 at 1:31 am

    Un vrai plaisir de lire les critiques de Gaby. I’m so proud of you. See you soon.

    Reply