Tapping Out

Watching pro wrestler Kerry Von Erich as a kid (known as the The Texas Tornado in-ring during his WWF run), there was never a sign of trouble. Wrestling on one leg, unbeknownst to anyone watching until his death, the smiling, acrobatic star made a name through his outward, glowing personality. Inside, he was tortured.

Iron Claw depicts a family of brothers, growing up in Texas with an unrelenting, pro wrestling-promoter father. Their lives lack emotion. Their father lives through them, demanding title runs, and openly proclaiming his favorite son in list form. Each lives with the reality of what can only be seen as a curse.

Iron Claw’s drama happens outside of the ring

This isn’t a pro wrestling movie, and if there’s a mistake, it’s in treating the in-ring show as authentic, as if the family shares in the surprise of each win, this after showing the brothers discussing match flow backstage. Iron Claw’s drama happens outside of the ring, and if anything, it’s too kind toward father figure Fritz Von Erich (Holt McCallany) who pressed Kerry (Jeremy Allen White) too fast after a motorcycle accident, leading to the amputation; the movie skips that point.

The trials of pro wrestling are evident though – injuries, bleeding on demand, drugs, family separation, travel; all play their roles in dismantling what, on the surface, appears as a respectful, hard working unit. Eventually, it’s evident how little choice the Von Erich kids have, with a suffocating obligation to please their father that begins to take a psychological toll, with no one willing (or wanting to) see the problems.

As much as it is about brotherhood with Kevin Von Erich (Zac Efron) as the emotional center, Iron Claw leaves lasting impressions about forced masculinity, the draining of artistic talent or personal expression, and molding kids into form rather than letting them find their own. It’s a tragedy, but one avoidable to anyone willing to listen to this story. Iron Claw exists to break down those barriers, to show how readily we crush one another with expectations, and reject (or force) them when they stray. The Von Erich’s story is a powerful one, presented with artistic grace and candor.

Video

Filmed on Kodak stock, Iron Claw presents hefty grit, and looks great on Blu-ray. A24’s encode handles this material cleanly, minus any compression issues, impressive given the haze that dominates so many scenes. When clear, the result is detail in droves, facial definition soars, and sweaty bodies create additional texture.

The sepia tint dominates, giving Iron Claw a warmed over, vintage aesthetic as intended. Flesh tones warm and oranges become the dominate focus in the frame.

Black levels likewise lose their luster, also as intended. Murky gray makes up most shadows and while hard depth is lost, the visual appeal is undeniably there.

Audio

In-ring, crowd sounds fill this 5.1 mix, every speaker lively to place viewers in the center of the ring. Dialog still cleanly pops from the center channel amid the cheers and boos. The contemporary soundtrack produces range, and likewise spread into the rears.

Extras

Brotherhood is Forever runs 29-minutes as the disc’s main making-of. A late 2023 post-screening panel Q&A runs around 20-minutes.

The Iron Claw
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

A story of brotherhood, family, and wrestling, Iron Claw hits all the right dramatic notes.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 40 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray:


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