The Iron Claw

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The Iron Claw

How can you get excited about a combat sport that is not about a fair fight, but about a staged spectacle for the audience? In which we observe not a test of skills, but shamanism and clowning? Wrestling movies – that’s different. The Iron Claw is a story about the abominations of this most American of sports (certainly: the most “Texas“), clearly showing the artificiality and brutality of a bloody spectacle. They also look behind the scenes, watching players intoxicating themselves with harmful substances and managers juggling the health and even life of their players. However, the main topic of the film is not sports pathologies, but family pathologies.

The Von Erich family went down in history for two reasons. Firstly, because of their contributions to wrestling – in the 1970s and 1980s, the young Von Erichs, under the supervision of their father Fritz, fought many successful fights and won various titles, including international ones. Also today, some of the descendants continue the family traditions and practice wrestling. Secondly, there was allegedly a curse over the entire family, which was believed to be responsible for the numerous misfortunes that befell the wrestler clan. Director Sean Durkin made the right assumption that when life has already written the best script, there is no need to overthink things – just focus on telling the story in an engaging way. If the fate of the Von Erich family were not true, some viewers would consider Brothers of Steel to be unbelievable and exaggerated. The director himself decided that he could not show on screen all the tragedies that befell his characters, because then his film would be too sentimental – for this reason, among others, it completely ignores one of the brothers – Chris. Indeed, [SPOILER] a family in which five of six brothers die tragic deaths, including three who commit suicide, may seem cursed [END OF SPOILER].

During the screening, we quickly realize that the misfortunes that befall the family are not caused by a curse, but by one specific person. Fritz Von Erich is a father who would put Logan Roy to shame with his perfidy. The family doyen treats his sons as a means to an end, i.e. realizing his own unrealized dreams of a career in wrestling. He doesn’t take their health into account and forces them to return to the ring after serious physical damage. Without his son’s knowledge or consent, he agrees to throw him against bare concrete in an important fight, just to build a better spectacle – and afterward, he complains that he got up too slowly. He raises in fear of the curse weighing down on his family. He tells his sons to call each other “yes, sir.” He does not appreciate any values ​​except physical strength. He cheats financially and manipulates; he openly admits that he has a personal ranking of his favorite sons (“but the ranking can always change”).

Fritz’s “golden child” is Kerry (Jeremy Allen White), the most successful of the siblings, entirely shaped by his father and basing his self-esteem solely on his sporting successes. David (Harris Dickinson) is also liked – he is charismatic, outspoken and media-friendly; Fritz knows he can make money off this boy. Lower in the fatherly ranking is the simple-minded, oldest Kevin, who, although he always tries very hard and completes all tasks, never deserves recognition. Fritz’s scapegoat is Mike (Stanley Simons), who has no predisposition to sports, but he will also be forced to fight brutally in the ring. All these struggles are watched by an indifferent, cold, emotionally withdrawn mother, who is completely suppressed by her husband and does not question his decisions.

The Iron Claw is the biggest loser (along with Obsessio ) of this year’s Oscar acting nominations. The entire cast is excellent, although one role stands out in my opinion. Zac Efron, redefining his entire image, deserved an Oscar award much more than the bizarre Bradley Cooper in The Maestro. Of all the brothers, he is the most touching as Kevin, a lost boy in the body of a powerful man (the actor’s physical transformation is impressive!). Scenes in which he stifles his emotions and refrains from crying – because, according to his father, even crying at the funeral of a loved one is a cause for shame – remain in the memory for a long time. It’s beautiful to watch him slowly grow up alongside the tender, supportive Pam. It’s a role that will certainly prove important for many men like him: brought up with a tough hand, unable to talk about feelings, suffering in silence, lacking emotional maturity.

The Iron Claw. This is the name of a wrestling hold, popularized by the Von Erich family, which involves placing your hand on the opponent’s face and squeezing his temple and forehead with your fingers. We will see such a maneuver on screen, but primarily The Iron Claw refers to the “iron claw” with which an authoritarian father holds his sons.

It is not the toxic father who is in the foreground here, but brotherly love which, despite all the twists and turns of fate, remains as unshakable as steel. Despite all Fritz Von Erich‘s manipulations, despite his fueling rivalry between his sons and openly assigning them the role of favorite and scapegoat, despite narcissistically forcing them to fight for his attention – the brothers’ relationship remains strong. Even though it’s hard for Kevin to hide his jealousy when David, who is younger than him, deprives him of the chance to fight for his dream title, he ultimately enjoys his success and offers him full support. Despite a sick upbringing, a cold home and the lack of good role models: the brothers stick together, care for each other, respect and love each other, defend the weaker ones and do not bully the stronger ones.

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