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. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

9 Miles Down: bad casting kills a horror movie

Greetings, commies!

Winter is a great time for self-reflection and self-flagellation, a great opportunity to remember all those times you wronged others and reflect on how you are going to pay for them ... in the afterlife. Just kidding! I am no moralist. However, if you come across "Nine Miles Down" while flipping through your Amazon Prime options, consider giving it a go. 


Nine Miles Down is a 2009 horror film[2] based on the Well to Hell, a widespread urban legend (spread mostly in the 1990s) that Russian scientists had drilled so deep that they had broken through into hell and recorded the screams of the damned emanating from the borehole.[3] It was the last feature film credit for writer Everett de Roche.[4] It is an international co-production between the UK, Hungary, and the US.

My thoughts:

Released five years before a more known and acclaimed "As Above So Below" (2014), "9 Miles Down" takes the idea of personal hell to new depths, blurring traumatic memories, fears and imagination into an unsettling concoction. The problem is that the actors portraying the two lead characters are too ... generically "hot". Jack, played by Adrian Paul, does not come across as a bereaved father and husband, tormented by guilt. And Kate Nauta looks like a cast member of "Baywatch". She's just not a good actress. Her abilities are suitable for C-rated direct to stream flicks. Her seductive antics are affected and borderline histrionic. Meredith Ostrom is another traditionally hot and awkwardly stiff as Jack's betrayed wife Susan in the flashbacks. She looks like a model who walked off of a bikini photo shoot into a horror movie set. The casting director could have made different choices to make the characters more convincing and sympathetic. The casting choices do nothing for the plot and detract from the overall message. 

Thursday, January 18, 2024

47 Meters Down: a low budget version of "Gravity"

Greetings, commies!

It's that time of year, and many of you in the northern hemisphere are tempted to escape to tropical locations. Before you dish out a few hundred dollars cash for an "unforgettable experience" that will make you look "totally badass" like teasing sharks from the safety of a metal cage, watch "47 Meters Under". 

Two sisters vacationing in Mexico are trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean. With less than an hour of oxygen left and great white sharks circling nearby, they must fight to survive.

My thoughts
The plot formula closely mimics that of 2013 "Gravity". You have all the plot milestones: accident, entrapment, race for survival, some difficult choices and a bit of soul-searching. Except that instead of two seasoned astronauts lost in space we have two ditsy American women trapped in a cage underwater. You don't need to be a survival movie buff to foresee some of the plot twists from ten miles away. I won't spoil the experience for you and let you see how quicky and accurately you can guess some of those twists. 

In the entire movie the most sympathetic characters are sharks.
Women - white American women, to be precise - are portrayed as impulsive, naive, overreaching.
The men are portrayed as opportunistic, cynical and cowardly. Like the women, they are completely dispensable - finger food for the sharks. 

If you have a strong misanthropic streak, like I do, you will enjoy watching silly humans making fools of themselves. Take it as a cautionary tale for middle-class 20-something Americans inclined to seek thrills in resorts.