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Sunday, March 3, 2024
March 3 , 2024

REVIEW: “The Iron Claw” puts pressure on your heart

Photo credit: Layomi Adeojo

“The Iron Claw” highlights the power of community through laughter and tragedy. Despite fixed character relationships, this tear-jerker depicts a joyful family that faces a tragic ending.

Written and directed by Sean Durkins, “The Iron Claw” shows the rise and fall of the Von Erich wrestling family. Kevin Von Erich (Zac Efron) fuels his father’s (Holt McCallany) harsh parenting as he fights to become a world-class wrestler and protect his younger brothers, David (Harris Dickinson), Kerry (Jeremy Allen White) and Michael (Stanley Simons).

The grueling wrestling lifestyle is showcased through quick transitions from suplexes to body slams. Fight scenes are electric with the wrestling audience’s reaction intensifying after every hit. As dissolving shots layer character’s expressions, the Von Erich’s respect and animosity toward each other after matches flows through the screen.

While the fights are intense, the mixture of yelling and punching sounds are never overwhelming. The juxtaposition between boisterous crowds and uneasy silence allow the audience to read characters’ thoughts.

Efron delivers a poignant and expertly restrained performance. The seasoned actor displays internal pain with simple glances and body language, making viewers focus on his every move in and out of the ring.

Jeremy Allen White had considerably little screen time, despite having won multiple awards for his performance in “The Bear.” Nevertheless, White didn’t spare a second and portrayed a tortured athlete with nothing to lose, a performance reminiscent of his time on “Shameless.”

With flamboyant outfits, luxurious blond hair and a booming voice, Dickinson becomes a wrestling superstar. Cheesy speeches turn into anthems with his charismatic presence.

Wholesome moments between the brothers are riddled throughout the film. As they happily disobey their parents, viewers can easily relate to their ecstasy. Such moments heighten the sadness when tragedy strikes.

The brothers’ greatest obstacle is their father. Despite opposing their father’s teaching methods, the brothers never truly challenge him. As a result, relationships between these characters remain stagnant throughout the film.

The Von Erich family’s oath to apathy harms the film’s plot. With each brother competing for their father’s praise, jealousy between the siblings brews as losers stand in the shadow of the winner. However, such jealousy is never acted upon, making each brother’s talent the only threat to having a chance in the spotlight.

The stakes of losing are low, as their father’s disappointment and anticipation of the following match are the main consequences of losing a match.

Nostalgic family gatherings and tragic funerals combine to make the film’s unforgettable ending. Efron’s performance completes the film with gorgeous cinematography and intimate close-ups. As the actor’s macho persona falls apart, the audience is tempted to cry with him.

“The Iron Claw” questions what sacrifices are truly necessary for success. With each Von Erich falling victim to their father’s relentless demands, the film displays how one’s work ethic and support system can mean the difference between life and death.

Viewers enter the film’s ring and are hit with a barrage of cheerful, heart-warming family gatherings. Considerably trivial stakes and fixed relationships leave time to recover. But as emotional performances deliver the final blow, viewers are left stunned and yearning to call their loved ones.

Rating: 3/5

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