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Professional wrestling fans are likely familiar with the story of the Von Erich dynasty, who grew to enormous success in the 1980s. However, it’s a story worth telling even for those outside of the sports realm, and that’s what Sean Durkin has done as the writer/director of The Iron Claw. The film, which is centered around Kevin Von Erich (Zac Efron), premiered — appropriately — in Dallas, Texas, and those who were able to catch an early screening of the upcoming A24 movie are hitting social media to share their first reactions. They seem to agree this tragic tale is likely to garner some awards.
Zac Efron went through an insane hair and body transformation for the role of Kevin Von Erich, and he’s joined by Jeremy Allen White, Holt McCallany, Maura Tierney, AEW star Maxwell Jacob Friedman and others as the members of the Texas wrestling family. A lot of work went into creating authentic wrestling scenes for the tragic Von Erich story, so let’s see if this will go down as another one of the best A24 movies. Film critic Courtney Howard says Efron’s effort is a “career best,” and he’s surrounded by talent. Howard continues:
Sean Durkin continues his winning streak examining the dissolution of dreams with The Iron Claw. It’s a heartrending, heartbreaking, poignant study of brawn, brine & brotherhood. Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson & Stanley Simons give powerful, riveting performances.
Simon Thompson calls Zac Efron’s performance “excellent,” while also praising the cinematography and editing for adding to The Iron Claw’s authenticity. The movie is a “genuinely powerful cocktail,” Thompson writes on X, and says:
The Iron Claw is a powerhouse biopic. The ensemble cast all deliver but Zac Efron’s transformative lead performance as Kevin Von Erich is nuanced and deeply textured. Writer-director Sean Durkin’s engaging, tragic and beautifully raw study of male relationships is a real winner.
Scott Menzel of We Live Entertainment predicts there may be awards in store for leading man Zac Efron and Holt McCallany in a supporting role, but says the entire ensemble elevates one another in this “deeply emotional” biopic. Menzel writes:
The Iron Claw is an absolute knockout. A heartbreaking tale of toxic masculinity and mental health. Zac Efron delivers a transformative performance that is easily his best work as an actor. It’s gripping, deeply emotional, and powerful. Wow, what a movie!
Clayton Davis of Variety is another critic predicting awards love for Holt McCallany, who plays Fritz Von Erich, the patriarch of the wrestling dynasty. Overall Davis compares The Iron Claw to heavy-handed winners in the past like Manchester by the Sea, writing:
One of the final films to drop in the awards conversation, The Iron Claw has the emotional resonance and impact of heavy-handed and depressing dramas such as Manchester by the Sea, which won two Oscars for actor Casey Affleck and original screenplay for Kenneth Lonergan.
Will Landman agrees that The Iron Claw is a successful outing for A24 and Sean Durkin, but he isn’t sure about the choice to consolidate Chris Van Erich’s story into that of his brother Mike’s (Stanley Simons). Overall, though, this movie was the epitome of tragedy and love, Landman posts on X:
The Iron Claw: Great film from Sean Durkin depicting the love between the Von Erich brothers. Incredible acting from Holt McCallany, Maura Tierney, and Jeremy Allen White. Zac Efron delivers his most layered performance as Kevin Von Erich. A tragic story filled with intense love.
Bill Bria writes that The Iron Claw succeeds in eliciting a gamut of emotions from its audience over its 132-minute runtime, posting:
The Iron Claw is a movie that embodies its subject and title, viewing the Von Erich wrestling family through the lens of how the stronger you grip, the easier it is to let things slip. Not many films can elicit belly laughs, gasps and full-body sobs; this one can. A triumph.
If you want to see this movie of pure muscles, in which Zac Efron will show off some insane wrestling moves, you’ve unfortunately still got a few weeks to wait. The Iron Claw is set to hit theaters on the Oscar race-friendly release date of Friday, December 22. In the meantime, however, you can check out other movies that feature professional wrestlers or take a peek at our 2023 movie release calendar to see what else is coming to the big screen in the meantime.