Football fans and later audiences of TV show ‘Gladiators’ would wear those giant foam clenched hand with the index finger pointing up to cheer on their favourites. But like dentists giving kids a sticker after a check up the giant foam finger was being given away by our Editor’s proctologist after each check up (‘You’re fired!’ – Ed). For those involved in physical sports there are signature moves but The Iron Claw was a signature move for Fritz Von Erich, a wrestler of the 1950’s, who would clamp his hand over the face and applying pressure and bringing his opponent to their knees. It was typical of the ludicrous pantomime of wrestling and had all the credibility of Boris Johnson’s marriage vows. But its a title that as much about the control he exerted over his sons as he did over his opponents in the ring
But Fritz Von Erich’s (Holt McCallany) career was one of frustration never getting the recognition or wins that he felt he deserved. As far as he was concerned it was a curse and with him retired and now running his States wrestling industry he was determined that his sons would succeed where he had failed. His son Kevin (Zac Efron) was a scholar of wrestling yet the least flamboyantly showbizzy of the sons when it came to grandstanding at the events. Clearly the most beefed up and able there’s an underlining feeling that he will never make it and is obviously unaware of it even when he’s explaining to his girlfriend and eventual wife Pam (Lily James) that winning a belt is awarded more for playing to the crowd than wrestling ability. His brothers David (Harris Dickinson) Jerry (Jeremy Allen White) and Mike (Stanley Simons) all get drawn to the family trade eager to please their father who harangues any of his sons who might be thinking of doing anything else (one of his sons is persuaded away from being a musician and into the wrestling ring).
So why would such a film be made about such a real life family. And the answer is the tragedy that besets the family which begins the fall of Erich’s empire that crumbles in the most distressing manner and it leads to a final twenty minutes of tear jerking sadness that had the person sat behind me crying uncontrollably.
Weighed down by good looks The Iron Claw sees Zac Efron as Kevin taking on a role that shows his dramatic chops and he’s committed to method with his body pumped up and a haircut that looks half finished giving him the look of Lou Ferringo in his 1970’s Incredible Hulk TV series era. Efron’s body is bursting at the seams and he looks awkward but it’s a look entirely befitting of the role as the son uncomfortable in the onslaught of his father’s overbearing manner that has him telling his own sons how he ranks them. It’s little wonder that both father and Kevin are a mass of neuroses and insecurities. Fritz is far more of a business man than a father supressing his own natural artistic creativity years ago for a sport with homo erotic undertones where many of the wrestlers dress like Liberace’s nightmare. It’s a male centric film with the father and sons compellingly played and it is the women, Lily Lames and mum Doris Von Erich (Maura Tierney) who are very much sidelined and under written.
Written and directed by Sean Durkin, who himself is a huge fan of wrestling and the attraction of such an almost unbelievably tragic story that’s little known outside of the US is obvious and at over two hours long it builds towards a devastating yet melancholy climax.
Here’s The Iron Claw trailer…..