The Iron Claw

Heavyweight toxic masculinity

Back in the ‘80s, the four von Erich brothers were something of a sensation in the sensationalist world of professional wrestling. They excelled in the ring, but all the glitz and buffoonery hid a deeply dysfunctional family. The four boys’ father (Holt McCallany) was a retired wrestler who never wore the championship belt but was determined that his sons would.

Personally, I’ve never been a fan of this fake sport, though I can understand its entertainment value. Like roller derby, it may be fake, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. At any rate, like most sports movies, this is not about the “sport,” but the bittersweet human story of the doomed clan. About fathers and sons

The phrase “toxic masculinity” falls short. Perhaps “fatal masculinity” comes closer. Their signature hold was the Iron Claw, and it occurs to me that the term could also be applied to the Shakespearean hold dad had over his sons as family loyalty morphed into self-destruction. Would it be too woke to have wanted to see the bastard get a little comeuppance?

The writer/director is Sean Durkin, no stranger to profoundly emotional movies (Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Nest.) The astounding lead performance by a seriously pumped-up Zac Ephron is enough to finally forgive his High School Musical flicks. He heads up a great cast that notably includes Jeremy Allan White, from TV’s The Bear.

Not an easy sit. But not to be missed. (132 min)