There's something about a sports drama that just hits different. There's been so many great ones over the years and, whether they tell a darker or more light-hearted story, there's always a great story to be told somewhere, even in the sports you wouldn't think it. The Iron Claw tells the unbelievable story of the Von Erich family, with some glaring omissions, and it packs one hell of an emotional punch.

The true story of the Von Erich brothers (Zac Efron, Harris Dickinson, Jeremy Allen White and Stanley Simons), who make history in the intensely competitive world of professional wrestling in the early 1980s. Through tragedy and triumph, the brothers seek larger-than-life immortality on the biggest stage in sports.
The first feeling when leaving The Iron Claw was just how unrelenting it is with emotions, both the joys of brotherhood and pain of loss explored in such deep and spectacular fashion. Sean Durkin doesn't hold back in this biographical sports drama and it results in one of the best films of the decade so far, an intense cinematic experience that doesn't shy away from themes such as toxic masculinity to life-threatening points. It'll hit you right in the feels but it's well worth seeing at the cinema, Mátyás Erdély's cinematography capturing the vibe of the 80s professional wrestling scene incredibly well.

There's a physicality to the film that will leave you in awe too, the wrestling sequences utterly spectacular and choreographed to perfection. You can tell they had a professional consultant in the form of Chavo Guerrero, and the results are there for everyone to see. It could have easily looked like an amateur production but they all look and feel like the real McCoy.
Coming to the performances, The Iron Claw possesses an ensemble cast that capture either varying degrees of machismo or familial drama throughout. This is quite simply Zac Efron's finest hour, a performance of such emotional and physical strength that has somehow been overlooked near enough all awards season. The physical transformation has to be lauded, Efron looking as if he's about to burst with the physique he displays, yet his emotional range is pushed to the absolute limit by the narrative and he excels on every level. The sibling chemistry he shares with Harris Dickinson, Jeremy Allen White and Stanley Simons gives the film such heart, each of them delivering something special to their respective performance.

Holt McCallany provides the film with a villain of sorts, his dream of having the world championship title in his family impacting the lives of his children no end. McCallany delivers the over-machismo in such a stern and scary manner, demanding respect from the sons he wants to thrive in the wrestling business. Maura Tierney provides the film with a quieter yet equally powerful performance as the matriarch of the Von Erich clan, one scene in particular will see Tierney's emotion reduce you to tears. In a film full of big personalities amidst the professional wrestling scene, it's impressive to standout with such a reserved performance.

A film that deals with legacy and the idea of a curse hanging over a family, The Iron Claw is a compelling sports drama that is relentless in pointing out just how hard the life of this family truly was.

Verdict: ★★★★★


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