Amid all the Christmas tentpole movies, a legitimately great film is getting a quiet release, with A24’s The Iron Claw now in theaters. A devastating account of the rise and fall of the Von Erich family, whose rumoured curse claimed the lives of no less than five brothers, it’s up there with the year’s best movies. It features a towering, career-best role for star Zac Efron, who plays Kevin Von Erich, a journeyman wrestler who lacks the flash and sizzle of his younger siblings but tries to hold them all together. The Bear’s Jeremy Allen White and Harris Dickinson star as two of his beloved, ill-fated younger brothers, Kerry and David, while Holt McCallany and Maura Tierney play their parents. McCallany’s Fritz Von Erich might have been the villain of a more simplistic telling of the Von Erich story. Still, the reality was that he was a complicated man who, despite everything, really did love his boys and tried to protect them the only way he knew how – by making them indestructible champions. But, this drive was a double-edged sword, with nothing but tragedy ensuing for the whole family.
While hardly the kind of uplifting fare one might expect out for the holidays, The Iron Claw is a bit of a masterpiece, with director Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene) making his most entertaining film to date. It’s both a film about wrestling and a movie about the bonds of brotherhood, with something to offer anyone – even if they’ve never watched a wrestling match in their life. Case in point – I showed the film to my sister, who didn’t care about the sport, and she was in tears by the end of the film, saying she thought it was terrific. It’s like Oppenheimer or Barbie in that it checks all the boxes. It’s just damn good.
Around the time contributor Travis Hopson and I saw the film, we got to do some interviews with the folks involved, including Durkin, McCallany and Tierney. While we haven’t gotten the chance to speak with Efron, White or Dickinson yet, everyone involved does magnificent work in this gem of a movie. Please go see it; we need more movies like this in theaters.