If someone had told my 13-year-old self that one day I would witness Zac Efron, aka Troy Bolton, throwing punches and kicks in a wrestling drama, I wouldn’t have believed them. Over the years, the High School Musical alum has changed the trajectory of his filmography, and his new release, The Iron Claw, is a stunning portrayal of the actor’s calibre. The Iron Claw is directed by Sean Durkin, who opens a time portal to the late 1970s, when the scenario of professional wrestling was dramatically segregated between good people and bad guys, with old western themes and patriarchal families.
“Ever since I was a child, people said my family was cursed. Mom tried to protect us with God. Dad tried to protect us with wrestling.” That’s the summary of The Iron Claw, chronicled by Kevin Von Erich (played by Zac Efron) in a voiceover that comes less than five minutes into the film. With a sports theme, one would expect the movie to be filled with adrenaline and the rush of watching a live match. But the movie gives you a shocking glimpse of the emotional real-life tale of four brothers from the Von Erich wrestling dynasty who fought for their family’s legacy under an emotionally abusive father.
The Von Erich’s family ordeal is explored, showcasing what one family is capable of, but perhaps it isn’t a new thing for most wrestling fans. The Iron Claw gives the sport much-needed respect while throwing light on the price these boys had to pay in order to meet the high expectations of their father.
The movie’s title is named after a signature head-gripping palm move used by their father Fritz (played by Holt McCallany) in the ring. It also offers its practitioners credit by demonstrating the rigorous training needed to shape their strong bodies as well as the danger of severe harm they still confront, even when performing pre-planned theatrics.
The biggest strength of the movie is its casting. Zac Efron, who plays Kevin Von Erich, delivers what can be called one of his best performances on screen, making you want to throw punches at his Oscar snub. In addition to his bulked-up appearance, he exudes an innate sweetness and innocence, truly becoming the eldest brother who looks out for his younger brother. His kind, good-natured demeanour also contrasts with Fritz’s strict demands that his boys maintain a stern façade of machismo at all times.
Every other brother in the story, including the blond-haired trash talker David (played by Harris Dickinson), the ex-Olympic Kerry (played by The Bear’s main chef, Jeremy Allen White), and the adorable aspiring musician Mike (Stanley Simons), has his chance to shine. Certain scenes will make you give your sibling a call tell them how much you love them while wiping your tears.
The Iron Claw is a story around the narrative of a family troubled and doomed, driven by guilt and the spirits of the dead except for a few instances where the events shown on screen are mostly felt rather than seen. It’s almost as if Durkin were trying to escape the most upsetting recollections of a well-known family he probably admires as a long term wrestling fan himself.
So, if you are in for a emotional rollercoaster The Iron Claw can be a great weekend watch with its 2 hours and 12 minute runtime. The Iron Claw is all set to hit Indian screens this week exclusively at PVR theatres.