Grealy, Beau. “Selling Sunset,” Entertainment Weekly, 6 Nov. 2023, Accessed 3 Jan. 2024.
Grealy, Beau. “Selling Sunset,” Entertainment Weekly, 6 Nov. 2023, Accessed 3 Jan. 2024.

This Family Is Cursed

But Is the Movie? A Review of The Iron Claw (2023)

Disclaimer: The Iron Claw is rated R

Are curses real? When a family can’t catch a break for generations, rumors swirl; some try to avoid these misfortunes, and some ignore them completely. But nothing worked for the Von Erich wrestling family, who’s “cursed” family name seemed to bring tragedy to the heavyweight brothers. In an era of lengthy, gritty biopics on the tragic lives of the tragically famous, The Iron Claw hit the silver screen on December 22nd, 2023.
The A24 film stars Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich, but the film is heavily supported by its side characters. And so is the marketing, as with only one trailer, the majority of this movie’s hype came from promotional photo shoots of Efron, Harris Dickinson — playing David Von Erich — and Jeremy Allen White — playing Kerry Von Erich.

Grealy, Beau. “Selling Sunset,” Entertainment Weekly, 6 Nov. 2023, Accessed 3 Jan. 2024.

It would be easy to criticize these promotional shoots, because ultimately, they have very little to do with the actual movie; eating BBQ wings and lounging around sets used sparingly in the film, these snapshots tell the audience nothing about the plot, the characters, or the real Von Erichs. But they worked. While not a box office blowout, the film has already earned 16.3 million in the box office alone, with DVDs and streaming still in the mix.

Part of this movie’s success can be attributed to those three actors, and it’s this author’s opinion that the majority of the viewers are likely not wrestling fanatics or film buffs, but people who love Efron, Allen White, and Dickinson. Dickinson has been in nine other media projects since 2021, most notably Triangle of Sadness and Where the Crawdads Sing, and Allen White has become a recent fan favorite; with a loyal fan base from his time on the show Shameless, his popularity has only grown following his role in the show, The Bear.
While both of the aforementioned actors certainly have their crowds, Efron’s influence cannot go unmentioned. Famed primarily for his iconic role in the High School Musical series, there has also been a certain air of mystery around him. Fans noticed a distinct difference in the actor’s face, and contentious rumors swirled about potential plastic surgery, medical issues, and his general state; most were there for his performance, but undoubtedly some were interested to see how he would do in a role more serious than the ones that made him famous.
Reasons aside, crowds poured into theaters to watch the tragic story of the Von Erich family unfold. Fritz Von Erich, played by Holt McCallany, is a professional wrestler who never got his shot at the coveted Heavyweight Champion title, and trains the sons he have — the ones that survived childhood — to do what he couldn’t. People say the Von Erich family name is cursed, and misfortune does seem to follow them around, but is it coincidence? Is it a self fulfilling prophecy? Or is it their misguided father, who’s obsession with the belt pushes his sons past their limits, and oftentimes, against each other.

A24. “Dickinson, Efron, and Allen White in the Iron Claw,” The Wrap, 30 Dec. 2023, Accessed 3 Jan. 2024.

At its heart, this story is not about the curse, and it’s not about wrestling — it is about the family and the bonds between them, stronger than their struggles, stronger than their squabbles, and stronger than death itself. The performances cut to the bone, and the final bittersweet act of the movie brought tears to the eyes of the audience. At so many points the tension between the characters is palpable, and the viewers share their euphoria, their grief, and everything in between.

However, this film is not without faults. Even with a runtime of two hours and twelve minutes, several aspects feel under-baked. The story focuses heavily on Kevin Von Erich and his relationships with his family, but the brothers themselves are not given their moments to shine, especially Kerry, showing up late in the movie and, unlike his other brothers, not given the same emotional beats. His drug use is explicitly shown, but none of the consequences are expanded upon. Additionally, choppy editing implies the other brothers are taking similar actions, potentially even juicing, but this plot point is never developed.

The “Iron Claw” move, for which the story is named, is not a pivotal part of the story, which felt like a missed opportunity. While it was briefly established as the dad’s signature move, later passed down to David, it felt lackluster, missing not only the aspect of spectacle that the real crowds loved, but the emotional turmoil surely felt by the other brothers. That move is their father, and there could have been deep symbolism behind who claims the move in the ring, how they do it, and why; this is touched upon, but had it been included even slightly more throughout the film, that emotional impact could have been much deeper
Every character seems to take a backseat to Kevin, which while understandable, still leaves the audience wanting more. The father is referred to as a complicated man, especially by the real life Kevin Von Erich and McCallany, but the audience is not led to agree; some might take the time to further understand the man, but the average viewer is shown a neglectful, abusive, bitter father with no remorse.
Even the family’s claim to fame — their relentless tragedies — were cut down to fit the movie. Most notably, Kerry’s story was once again stripped to the bone, leaving his arc rushed, and an entire brother was erased from existence. Chris Von Erich, the youngest brother, too frail for wrestling, was not included in the story. Some of these edits were done for the sake of the runtime, but if they were included, the story might’ve just been too sad, too tragic to be believable.
Biopics and lengthy films are in, but this story could have thrived with a series format, allowing for the arcs and symbols introduced to be expanded upon, delving deeper into this fascinating history.
Criticisms aside, The Iron Claw is a gripping, heartfelt lament to the Von Erich family with a seal of approval from Kevin Von Erich himself. So step into the ring, step into the theater, and let The Iron Claw be delivered to you.



Russel, Skylar. “Matt Hardy Says He Thoroughly Enjoyed “the Iron Claw”, Comments on Controversial Ric Flair Portrayal | Fightful News.”, Fightful, 2 Jan. 2024, Accessed 3 Jan. 2024.

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About the Contributor
Chloe Chen
Chloe Chen, Editor
Chloe Chen is a junior and a returning editor for The Lightning Flash. She is interested in crocheting, writing, and learning about history. After high school, she plans to go to college and major in psychology, and potentially continue into law during graduate school.