‘Iron Claw’ Presents the Glory and Tragedy of the Von Erich Family

Ulises Duenas


The story of the Von Erichs has been one of wrestling’s most notorious and tragic tales. If there’s one movie studio that could be trusted in adapting that story, it’s A24 and the result is an engaging, character-driven drama that does the story justice. 


The Von Erichs were a family of wrestlers who became folk heroes in their native Texas during the territories era of the 1970s and ‘80s. The patriarch, Fritz Von Erich, built a successful promotion off the success of his sons, but as the wrestling world was changing, the family suffered a series of tragedies that almost wiped them out.



Zac Efron plays Kevin Von Erich, the eldest son. His performance ended up having a lot more depth than expected. Jeremy Allen White as Kerry Von Erich was great as well. Kerry’s story is arguably worthy of being the movie's focus, and White does a fantastic job of portraying him with wide emotional range.


Since this movie has to cover years’ worth of events in around two hours of runtime, some pacing issues start popping up around the halfway mark. The film focuses on the dynamics and turmoil of the Von Erich family, so less attention is given to the actual wrestling side of things. It’s understandable since this is primarily a drama and not a sports film. Still, I would argue that delving more into the careers of the Von Erichs as wrestlers is necessary for fleshing out their story completely. Some events stretch the truth of what happened or how, but it’s not distracting. Other events that one would think would be a bigger focus in the movie are glossed over quickly when they should have had more room to breathe.



Director and writer Sean Durkin has done a great job at capturing the physicality and tremendous cost of being a wrestler. Works like The Wrestler and Dark Side of the Ring wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the dreary reality of the wrestling world before the modern era. The glory and the drama came hand in hand with addiction and death. While the script doesn’t delve into the nitty-gritty of it all, the direction shows a lot of what that seedy underbelly was like.


It’s hard to believe that the story of the Von Erichs is real; it’s too tragic to be fiction. Still, The Iron Claw does a great job of depicting that story without completely wallowing in the sadness and stomach-churning anxiety. Anyone who is put off by the idea that this is a “wrestling movie” should definitely watch it. This is a compelling drama that takes place in the larger-than-life world where theatrics meets sport, and it’s constructed wonderfully.  


Author Bio:

Ulises Duenas is a senior writer and film critic at Highbrow Magazine.


For Highbrow Magazine


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