film reel image

film reel image

Monday, January 1, 2024

The Iron Claw 2023 * * * Stars


I've always thought of Zac Efron to be a very talented actor. He's charismatic, with a gleaming, devil-may-care attitude. With 2023's The Iron Claw, Efron shines as real-life wrestler Kevin Von Erich. He totally immerses himself in the role, with a blistering screen presence that's off the charts. "You feel that, you feel that, that's pressure". Oh yeah. 

Now is The Iron Claw the best film of 2023? No but it's certainly in the team photo. The pic is a slow-mounting drama that at certain moments, hits you like a ton of bricks (or a clothesline if you know what I mean). And does "Claw" provide the audience with a sterling sense of time and place? Oh you know it. The complete effect is staggering, a sort of vaulted escapism via the late 70s and early-to-mid 80s. Yup, there were times when I was getting some serious Reagan Era vibes. Radical!

The story of The Iron Claw is a true one, about the rise and fall of the wrestling Von Erich brothers, their mildly cold father, and the tragedies that seem to have accompanied their so-called, cursed family. "Claw" clocks in at 132 elongated minutes, with unassumingly brilliant editing by Matthew Hannam. Sure the flick has that "goes on and on and on" feel to it but there's stuff to appreciate. An earthy, gritty look, authenticity in the time period, raw acting, ripped character alteration, and violently blunt, grappling scenes. "Claw's" director (Sean Durkin), well he unintentionally goes into Bennett Miller territory here, offering the moviegoer a sort of expanded companion piece to 2014's Foxcatcher. 

Bottom line: The Iron Claw is powerfully realized and well, powerfully depressing. It doesn't have much of an arc, a kind of hard documentary with troupers inserted. Oh well. You'll leave the theater numb and distraught anyway so it's probably worth it. "Dragon's claw". 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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