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February 22, 2024

The Iron Claw Wrestles With Von Erich Family’s Tragic History

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Dec 23, 2023

The Iron Claw, starring Zac Efron as pro wrestler Kevin Von Erich, dramatizes the fame and tragedy of the Von Erich wrestling dynasty. Released on December 21, 2023, the film has garnered both praise and criticism for its portrayal of the family’s complex real-life story.

Glowing Reviews For Efron’s Performance

Critics widely agree that Zac Efron delivers a standout dramatic performance as Kevin Von Erich, the sole surviving brother at the height of the Von Erich wrestling empire in the 1980s.

“Efron burrows deep to find the tormented soul inside Kevin Von Erich,” writes Peter Travers of Rolling Stone. “With an accent and physicality that disappears as he becomes his character, Efron brings a star-power heft perfectly attuned to this bigger-than-life role.”

The film currently holds an 89% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences have also responded positively, giving it a 93% audience score.

Fact vs. Fiction At Center Of Debate

However, The Iron Claw has proven divisive among fans and critics wrestling with how film dramatizes the Von Erichs’ tragic history.

At issue is whether writer/director Sean Durkin took too many liberties glossing over real details of the family’s suffering. Notably, the film excludes youngest Von Erich brother Chris, who committed suicide at age 21. His omission troubles fans seeking a fully truthful account.

“Leaving out Chris may allow the film to neatly funnel all the Von Erich tragedy onto Kevin,” writes The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon. “But it seems a disservice to Chris himself that his suffering is erased.”

Durkin has defended his choice as necessary to focus the narrative:

“At a certain point I had to answer what was this film about,” he told The Los Angeles Times. “Who was going to be the emotional center?”

Brother Cause of Death Age at Death
David Intestinal gangrene 25
Kerry Suicide by gunshot 33
Mike Toxic shock syndrome 30
Chris Suicide by gunshot 21

Table 1. The four Von Erich brothers who died young amid the family’s tragic history.

Grappling With Toxic Masculinity

Nonetheless, critics widely praise Efron and The Iron Claw for offering meaningful commentary on issues like masculinity and family trauma rarely explored in wrestling films.

“For better and worse, it grapples with questions many of us have about the cost of masculine expectation and family bonds,” writes Slate critic Dana Stevens. “This sorrowful docudrama gets at something true about the damaging effects of toxic masculinity.”

Since The Iron Claw’s release, Kevin Von Erich himself has seen the film and given it a positive endorsement:

{{< tweet 1738179972324270326 >}}

What The Future Holds

With award season gearing up, there is growing Oscar buzz around Efron’s performance. Zac is considered a likely Best Actor nominee, with Jeremy Allen White (Kerry Von Erich) and Harris Dickinson (David Von Erich) also drawing acclaim for their supporting turns.

The film seems poised to keep the Von Erichs and their sobering story in the spotlight throughout 2023 and beyond. Though facts may be sacrificed, The Iron Claw nonetheless compels audiences to confront harsh truths about lives damaged by wrestling’s pressures.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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