31 Jan 2024

Review: The Iron Claw

From At The Movies, 7:10 pm on 31 January 2024

What comic-books are to literature, what soap opera is to TV drama, so pro wrestling is to sport, I suppose. It’s bigger, it’s flashier, it’s more colourful and of course the end result is more satisfying.

Wrestlers don’t like people calling these bouts “fake”. They prefer “predetermined”. I imagine North Koreans feel the same way about their elections.

But fake or not, pro wrestling is still hugely popular around the world, with its larger-than-life characters and its mapped-out storylines that culminate in villains defeated and heroes triumphant. 

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Photo: Screenshot

Good guys like the famous Von Erich family.

Now, I say “famous”… It has been quite a while since I last watched the WWF’s Wrestlemania in slightly dazed confusion.

So, I’d rather forgotten about the doomed Von Erich brothers and their domineering father Fritz.

Fritz used to be a wrestler himself. His persona in the Sixties was a villainous Nazi, and the Von Erich signature move was grabbing his opponent’s forehead in the dreaded Iron Claw.  

Now Dad relies on his wrestler sons Kevin and David, and later Kerry and Michael to win the coveted World Championship.

Kevin, the eldest, is played by Zac Efron, who’s an eyeful for people who just know him as a teenage heartthrob in High School Musical and The Greatest Showman.  

There’s certainly a lot more of him – he looks like a miniature version of The Rock in this film. Zac’s the one brother who’s allowed a love-life – that’s if you don’t count Mum and Dad.

English actress Lily James must have set some sort of record for number of starring roles without quite graduating to A List.  

Downton Abbey, Mamma Mia, Yesterday, TV’s War and Peace, Pam and Tommy…. What’s a girl got to do to get noticed? Possibly not The Iron Claw.

Zac’s brothers include Harris Dickinson as David - the one with the gift of the gab - and Jeremy Allen White as Kerry, the one with emotional problems. 

The other brother, the rather weedy Michael, would rather be playing guitar. Good luck with that, Mike.

If you’re not already on board for the idea of a story about the Von Erich brothers and their famous Family Curse, chances are you’re not a big wrestling fan. 

You’ll be asking inconvenient questions about “predetermined sports” and how you compete to win a championship when the result has already been fixed?

If you are a wrestling fan and therefore excited by the prospect of The Iron Claw, you may have your own inconvenient questions. 

Like how come these popular actors look very little like the gigantic originals, apart from their dodgy Eighties wigs?  

When Efron steps into the ring with a caption saying “Six foot two”, that’s certainly a test for the fans’ willing suspension of disbelief.

The story is already well-known to them of course – the tragic string of casualties among the brothers, and how they somehow kept going, generation after generation.  

For the rest of us there’s not much, apart from counting the number of times The Iron Claw name checks “family” and “brothers”.

But we can certainly enjoy James gamely smiling throughout the movie with a pretty good Texas accent. You go, Lil!

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