The Iron Claw Movie Review

Not knowing too much about the subject matter, wrestling, or not liking the sport, should not keep you from watching this film. It’s an absorbing, often tender film of love and loss, pain and sorrow.


“The Iron Claw” is written and directed by Sean Durkin of “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “The Nest.” His work has been more on TV than films, but perhaps this is his turning point. The film is a sports-related non-fiction story about a family called the Von Erich’s who had a dynasty on the professional wrestling circuit.


Out of Texas, Dad, Fritz, played by Holt McCallany (Mindhunter) had half a dozen boys with wife Doris, performed by Maura Tierney (The Affair). One child died at a very young age, but that didn’t really concern him. What mattered to Fritz was getting his big title wrestling belt.

His real name was Jack Adkisson, but early on, he adopted the persona of a Nazi so he’d appear to be a German villain to the wrestling establishment and his opponents.


Fritz Von Erich was somewhat barbaric to his family, not allowing them to have their own lives but having his own. Where he failed, they were expected to succeed.


He created and marketed the Iron Claw hold, starting for his family a pitch when interviewed and something the fans could look forward to. The move was that they’d grip their rival’s face and squeeze significantly, using the entire hand, making sure that all their fingers were sharply digging in simultaneously. All of his sons were expected to perfect this maneuver.


The boys couldn’t have friends or get close to anyone but family members. When not at school, they were expected to be working out and making their bodies killing machines… wrestling machines. Jeremy Allen White, who famously played LIP in “ Shameless,” gained forty pounds of muscle to play Kerry Von Erich… and can you tell!! He and Zac Efron (Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile), who plays Kevin, are massive. In fact, one of the best scenes in the film was the brothers working out. Playing in the background was the RUSH song “Tom Sawyer.” The remarkable song played throughout the entire length of their fantastic strength training scene. It truly creates a climate for you to get into their lives. I couldn’t help but tap my foot along to one of the best songs ever. If you’re a Rush fan, it will make the movie a little more special for you, too.


As they grew older, not very old, by the way, they couldn’t take the life their father wanted, so, sadly, they would end that life. Not knowing this story, it was shocking to see and something you would never have believed was coming! To poor Kevin, who was practically disowned for not beating his father’s primary foe, it became known as a curse in the bloodline.

After an event, Kevin meets a woman named Pam, Lily James from the movie “Baby Driver,” who becomes his wife, something none of the others dared dream of. When they have a son, Kevin keeps wrestling, trying his best to please his father but can’t satisfy him and his wife at the same time. So he worked. He feared Dad and wanted to please him, which he saw as a positive because staying away from his family meant there would be no spreading of the curse to his child.


There are some scenes towards the end that will break your heart. Wrestlers from the 1980s might want to watch as they’re a big part of the story whether they knew it or not. One main adversary gets in the ring with Kevin. He hurts Kevin and his father disapproves of his not expecting the move and getting himself injured.

It’s brother Kerry who earns his love by finally capturing the belt. However, that’s just the beginning of the misery.

Don’t look this family up. See this movie only knowing what you’ve read here.

Sean Durkin does a beautiful job of creating the right atmosphere and time frame for which the biographical film is set. You’ll appreciate his efforts there, especially if you were a fan of the games at the time.       


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Listen to Richard Reed Parry’s triumphant original score for THE IRON CLAW.

Scores are important to the ambience of a film. This score is remarkable.

The Original Song “Live That Way Forever,” by Richard Reed Parry and Little Scream arrives January 3. 

The Iron Claw

Written & Directed by: Sean Durkin
Starring: Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, Stanley Simons, Maura Tierney, with Holt McCallany and Lily James


Rated: R
Run Time: 2h 10m
Genres: Biography, Drama, Sport

Producers: Tessa Ross, Juliette Howell, Angus Lamont, Sean Durkin

Distributor: A24

Production Co: A24, House Productions


Rating contributor: ShariK.Green tmc
I'm the Sr. Film Writer and Community Manager for I write, direct and produce short films with my production company, Good Stew Productions. Though it's difficult to answer this question when asked, I'd say my favorite movie is “The Big Chill.” I enjoy photography, poetry, and hiking and I adore animals, especially elephants. I live in Arizona and feel it's an outstanding and inspirational place to live.

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