Tuesday, March 26, 2024

"The Iron Claw" 2023 - "Black Swan" meets "Godfather"


The Iron Claw is a 2023 biographical sports drama film written and directed by Sean Durkin about the Von Erichs, a family of professional wrestlers who are "cursed" by constant tragedy. The film depicts the struggles of wrestling company owner Fritz Von Erich's sons to achieve the success their father groomed them for, from 1979 to the early 1990s–resulting in more tragedy.

My thoughts
It took my husband some effort to convince me to watch this movie with him, and I'm glad I did. This is not a straight up sports drama. Even if you don't care for sports in general, let alone something as kitsch as professional wrestling, you will be moved and disturbed by "The Iron Claw".  You don't need to be a ballet dancer or afficionado to appreciate "Black Swan". The psychological nuances will leave you unsettled. 

In the very first scene we meet Fritz Von Erich, the family patriarch who keeps his sons trapped on a capsule. They struggle to function outside of that capsule. I always found that siblings from such tightknit, almost cult-like families often lack social skills, because they don't need to cultivate relationships outside of the family unit. The Von Erich boys look like skittish, feral animals in the bodies of grown men. 

Tiger parenting is not limited to high achieving Asian American moms. It was fascinating to see a white man employ the same parenting gimmicks to groom his children for his version of success. Fritz, portrayed by Holt McCallany, is ruthless without resorting to physical brutality with his boys. You never see him threatening or hitting his sons, yet his power over them is unquestionable. You almost thing of Don Corleone from "The Godfather". It's frightening to see grown men so subjugated by their father. He takes their deaths nonchalantly. 

Zac Efron, a former teen heartthrob, is unrecognizable as the family's oldest surviving son, shouldering the responsibility for his younger brothers. The former pretty boy redefined himself and proved to be capable of handling serious dramatic roles. 

Of course, it takes a British actress (Lily James) to play a wholesome, ambitious Texan girl. I have zero complaints about her performance. Still, it's hard to believe that there were no American actresses who could handle this role. 

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