With the fall festival circuit firmly in the rearview mirror, many of the most anticipated films of the 2023 fall season have already screened for critics. One of the last films that remained unseen was “The Iron Claw,” Sean Durkin’s new A24 sports drama that tells the story of the Von Erich wrestling family. The film, which stars Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich and Jeremy Allen White as Kerry Von Erich, premiered in Dallas on Wednesday before screening for critics in Los Angeles on Sunday. And early reactions suggest that A24 could have another hit on its hands.
“The Iron Claw” documents the rapid rise to wrestling superstardom and even quicker fall toward tragedy that befell the Von Erich family. After family patriarch Fritz Von Erich (played by Holt McCallany in the film) built a following as a villainous heel on the wrestling circuit, his sons entered the business in quick succession. However, many of his children — including, in the film, Harris Dickinson as wrestling brother David — suffered tragic deaths early in their wrestling careers, leading many to believe that there was a curse on the family. Maura Tierney co-stars as Von Erich matriarch Doris Von Erich.
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The film has attracted plenty of attention due to the extreme physical transformations that its lead actors underwent, with Efron and White both speaking publicly about the excessive amounts of food they had to eat to bulk up for the roles.
“[I was] eating all the time. Like, never stopping,” White said. “In the morning, I would have waffles, almond butter. In the middle of the day, I was eating turkey patties and avocado all the time. It’s really just gross. You’re trying to consume as much as you possibly can, and, to be honest, you don’t feel great. I was training as well, but, I don’t know, trying to get that big, it’s no way to live.”
“The Iron Claw” opens in theaters on Friday, December 22. Keep reading for a roundup of early reactions.
Sean Durkin long wanted to tell the true story of the Von Erichs wrestling family. Zac Efron carries The Iron Claw, with able support from Holt McCallany, Harris Dickinson, and Jeremy Allen White. A24 could have a male audience December hit. pic.twitter.com/jhvwtsR6hU
— Anne Thompson (@akstanwyck) November 12, 2023
#TheIronClaw is the "Manchester by the Sea" of wrestling movies. The tragic story of the Von Erich family is moving and orchestrated confidently by writer and director Sean Durkin. Zac Efron, Holt McCallany, and Maura Tierney soar. An impeccable ensemble. Heavy but essential. pic.twitter.com/OTN8j72SA3
— Clayton Davis (@ByClaytonDavis) November 12, 2023
THE IRON CLAW holds a lot in common with THE WRESTLER and THE FIGHTER that doesn’t hide the tragedy and trauma of the story. The cast is fantastic, especially Holt McCallany. There’s is one scene that irked me right at the end for it’s ableism but overall a solid Oscar film. pic.twitter.com/8t5U2VfSVI
— Kristen Lopez (@kristenlopez88) November 12, 2023
#TheIronClaw is a movie that embodies its subject and title, viewing the Von Erich wrestling family through the lens of how the stronger you grip, the easier it is to let things slip. Not many films can elicit belly laughs, gasps and full-body sobs; this one can. A triumph. pic.twitter.com/N5d33hEBm0
— Bill Bria (@billbria) November 12, 2023
Sean Durkin continues his winning streak examining the dissolution of dreams with #TheIronClaw. It’s a heartrending, heartbreaking, poignant study of brawn, brine & brotherhood. Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson & Stanley Simons give powerful, riveting performances. pic.twitter.com/QVd81GJ3Xf
— Courtney Howard (@Lulamaybelle) November 12, 2023
The Iron Claw is an absolute knockout. A heartbreaking tale of toxic masculinity and mental health. Zac Efron delivers a transformative performance that is easily his best work as an actor. It’s gripping, deeply emotional, and powerful. Wow, what a movie! #TheIronClaw pic.twitter.com/I0I6f6MA24
— Scott Menzel (@ScottDMenzel) November 12, 2023
THE IRON CLAW is absolutely harrowing but Zac Efron does dance twice in it
— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) November 12, 2023
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