The Iron Claw Movie Review
In The Iron Claw, Zac Efron takes steroids to earn himself an Oscar nomination. He, and the movie, needed a few more injections, unfortunately. Even still, the movie’s tragic true story packs enough punches to make a journey inside the ring worth it.
About the “cursed” Von Erich brothers, who aspired to do great things in their professional wrestling careers, The Iron Claw is an effective drama about strong men, suppressed emotions, and domineering parents.
Efron gives a career-defining performance, transforming from pretty boy into an absolutely bulked up stud of a dude with a bad haircut. He’s very good, though the amount of physical work he must have done to prepare for the role isn’t quite complemented by the material. Writer/director Sean Durkin’s screenplay is good, but Efron’s character is more one-dimensional than intended.
The movie itself, like professional wrestling, feels just slightly empty. Terrible things happen to this family, and yet it lacks the emotional heft you’d expect. It’s as if all the moves are there, but they never fully make contact. The Iron Claw holds back when it should have unleashed raw fury.
Despite those issues, there’s a lot to like here. The story is fascinating, the characters intriguing. Holt McCallany, as patriarch Fritz Von Erich, is particularly compelling and delivers, with tenacity, some of the most quotable dialogue of the year. The family’s dynamic, as tragic as it ultimately becomes, is a treat to watch. The movie, too, is an easy watch, with solid editing and a fast pace.
Much like the Von Erich brothers, The Iron Claw never achieves greatness, but it at least flirts with such potential. That’s enough to recommend, though I imagine Efron would have appreciated a greater return on his personal investment.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.