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The Iron Claw (Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital) Review

March 26, 2024 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
The Iron Claw Image Credit: A24 Films
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The Iron Claw (Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital) Review  

Directed by: Sean Durkin
Written by: Sean Durkin

Zac Efron – Kevin Von Erich
Jeremy Allen White – Kerry Von Erich
Harris Dickinson – David Von Erich
Stanley Simons – Mike Von Erich
Maura Tierney – Doris Von Erich
Holt McCallany – Fritz Von Erich
Lily James – Pam
Michael Harney – Bill Mercer
Kevin Anton – Harley Race
Maxwell Jacob Friedman – Lance Von Erich
Aaron Eisenberg – Ric Flair

Domestic Gross: $35.6 million
Worldwide Gross: $41.4 million

DVD Release Date: March 26, 2024
Running Time: 132 minutes

Image Credit: Lionsgate

Rated R for language, suicide, some sexuality and drug use.

Wrestling has had a heyday in the past few years not just in the ring, but on the screen. Professional wrestling used to be relegated to be lucky to get any kind of depiction in Hollywood, and when it did happen it would be along the lines of insulting fare like Ready To Rumble.

But in the last several years, we’ve seen a number of pro wrestling films and shows bring the industry to prestige format including GLOW, Heels, and last year’s Cassandro. Of them all, The Iron Claw may well be the best. Sean Durkin’s film about the Von Erich family was released last year to acclaim, bringing the tragic story of the Texas wrestling family to the big screen. Following its successful theatrical run, the drama has found its way to home video with a strong Blu-Ray, DVD Digital set through Lionsgate.

The Movie

Set in the heyday of the “territory era” of professional wrestling, the film stars Efron as Kevin Von Erich, the eldest son of the wrestling Von Erich family. Well, the second oldest, actually; as he tells his girlfriend Pam (James) on their first date, his older brother Jack died as a child in an accident. That’s led to the notion that the Von Erich family is cursed, a myth that will only be enhanced by the events of the film.

As Kevin and his brothers Kerry (White), David (Dickinson), and Mike (Simons) make their way into and through the world of professional wrestling in Texas, they find themselves living in the shadow of their father Fritz (McCallany) who holds court over the family and directs their future through his ownership and operation of World Class Championship Wrestling. Fritz is the first image we see in the film, a massive man who is portrayed in the ring as a heel and who is complicated out of it, to say the least. Fritz guides (and in some cases, pushes) his sons into the business, trying to make a better life for them but also pushing them both together and against each other. Through it all, matriarch Doris looks on and provides the emotional center for the family as it suffers tragedy after tragedy.

Anyone who knows much about the world of professional wrestling knows that this is not going to be a feel-good movie. Durkin invests the film with all the heart-rending impact we would expect from a Von Erich biopic. And honestly, it would feel drastically false if someone tried to make a film about the Von Erichs that lacked that sense of pain and trauma.

It’s to Durkin’s credit though that the film carries that weight without wallowing in it. The film shows respect for the real-life people involved and uses them to tell a story about brotherhood, toxic masculinity breaking the bonds of generational trauma, and – of course – professional wrestling. He does that through the unshakable bond between the brothers and that of Kevin with his wife Pam, both of which are elements that bring light to the dark cloud that often hangs over the events.

It helps, of course, that Durkin has a fantastic cast to work with. Efron provides a powerful emotional center for this film, bringing soulful depth to a man who in the film has complicated feelings about his situation. McCallany also provides plenty of nuance to Fritz, a character who could have easily come off as an irredeemable monster. It’s through McCallany’s work that we’re able to empathize with Fritz and understand his choices, even if they’re wrong. White, Dickinson, Tierney, and James all give career-best work in their various roles and while Simons has a trickier role to play, essentially embodying two people (Mike and the excised Chris Von Erich) in one, he does an admirable job.

Durkin makes a number of changes to the true story to streamline it. In addition to cutting Chris from the film, the timeline is contracted and shifted in parts and Fritz comes off a bit worse than the real patriarch does. While wrestling historians will have their gripes at these, they make for a stronger narrative and in large part, the movie makes up for the changes through its impressive dedication to recreating the era of wrestling. One notable off-putting performance aside (Aaron Eisenberg’s Ric Flair), the supporting roles are incredibly well-done and the stylistic choices of the production echo the world of 1970s and 1980s Texan pro wrestling to a T. It’s a gorgeously shot film with just enough needle drop song choices to evoke nostalgia for the time without being obtrusive.

Durkin’s greatest achievement here is telling the story of the family through Kevin’s eyes and finding that balance between tragedy and heart. The Iron Claw is by no means the easiest watch and even streamlined as the movie is, the final act does threatens to topple from its weight as the heartbreaks pile up. But in the end, the cast and crew are nicely able to pull it together and give us a silver lining, sealing the deal for the film’s emotional journey.

Film Rating: 8.0

The Video/Audio

Lionsgate has given The Iron Claw a gorgeous-looking transfer for the Blu-Ray release with a standard 1.85:1 widescreen 1080 transfer that puts the action and landscapes on full display. The picture is incredibly clear without any noticeable digital artifacts and strong levels to the color. There’s virtually no bleeding of the blacks, which come through clear and deep, and the opening black and white sequence pops quite well.

The audio track is similarly good. While the dialogue gets a bit soft at times, it’s all perfectly clear and the DTS-HD Audio 5.1 track provides a good amount of immersion. The action scenes benefit from the roar of the crowd and the thud of the ring; Richard Reed Parry’s score filters through well and is nicely balanced. This one won’t give your home theater set-up a workout, but it fits the film quite well. Subtitle options are English SDH and Spanish.

Video/Audio Rating: 8.5

Special Features

* Brotherhood Is Forever: Making The Iron Claw (29:25): This lengthy featurette goes into the origins and creation of the film. Durkin talks about growing up as a wrestling fan and being affected by the Von Erichs, as well as how he decided to make the film and running down each of the characters in the film. We also get interviews by Kevin Von Erich, who talks about being convinced to give the movie his blessing, Efron talking about his difficult preparation for the role and finding inspiration for playing Kevin.

There are interviews with White, Dickinson, Simons, McCallany, and James who talk about taking on the real-life people. Von Erich notes a couple of differences between the script and reality. We also get a look at the costume process with Jennifer Starzyk, the recreation of the Dallas Sportatorium, location scouting for the Von Erich ranch, the wrestling choreography & training with Chavo Guerrero Jr., and more. It’s nicely in-depth without being overlong and gives some solid insight into the film, more so than your typical EPK-style featurette.

* Cast and Crew Q&A (20:57): This is a post-screening moderated Q&A that took place on December 11th, 2023 at the film’s LA premiere with Durkin, Efron, Tierney, White, Simons, McCallany, and Kevin Von Erich. It’s an entertaining and frank discussion that includes a nice exchange where McCallany and Von Erich address the portrayal of Fritz in the film, for those who may take issue with how hard it is on the patriarch. Kevin features pretty prominently in this, but everyone gets plenty of time to offer their insight into the film.

* Theatrical Trailer (2:23)

Special Features Rating: 8.5

The 411:

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
On the whole, The Iron Claw does a wonderful job of bringing the story of the Von Erich family to life. Sean Durkin's take on the family's triumphs and tragedies leans hard on the latter, but never gets too mired in the emotional trauma thanks to strong performances from the cast and a respectful approach to telling the wrestling dynasty's story. A strong Blu-Ray transfer and a couple of very solid special features makes this one a must for any fan of wrestling -- or of biographical character studies in general -- to pick up.

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The Iron Claw, Jeremy Thomas