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The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News


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COLUMN: ‘The Iron Claw,’ an emotional gut punch

Ashanti Thomas
Staff profile for Drew Coffey.

Before Christmas break, I made a top three films of 2023 list where I talked about what films were the most compelling, visually striking and emotionally relevant.  

I really wish I had waited a little longer to make that list, as “The Iron Claw,” written and directed by Sean Durkin, is certainly one of the most tragic and saddening films of 2023.  

The film stars Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson and Lily James and tells the true story of the Von Erich family, who owned the Texas wrestling scene of the 1980s.  

I’ll start by saying the film fantastically conveys the 1980s feeling through costuming, set design and music choice. The film is also shot in a way that truly transports you to that period, an accomplishment A24 does quite often.  

But I would say the biggest positive of this movie would be the incredible acting all across the board. All four of the brothers have such a natural and familial camaraderie that only brings a smile to your face.  

Efron and White are the standouts in my opinion as they give very layered and dynamic performances that are ignited by their father.  

Throughout the film, we see the demanding and pressuring presence he has with his sons, forcing them to go into wrestling to solidify his legacy. We see that conflict within each brother as they are constantly trying to impress their father and become champions.  

Unfortunately, the film also heavily deals with the tragedies that plagued the family. Whether these tragedies were from drug abuse, depression, the pressure of being the best or just a random illness, the Von Erich brothers began dying one after the other.  

It is truly emotional how the brothers reacted to each other’s death and continued to maintain their larger-than-life persona within the ring. It also sadly shows the callousness of the father who continued to push the remaining brothers to carry on with his legacy.  

One slight problem I had with the film was the space between each brother’s death. To me, I think more time in between the tragedies would have given each of them a little more impact.  

Instead, it feels like a rather quick domino effect when, in reality, years went by between each death.  

I know this is a nitpick as the film has to maintain its pace and runtime. However, I feel like it would have made the deaths even more impactful and saddening as we see how their mental health begins to dissipate.  

Lastly, I want to talk about the last scene of the film which proves once and for all that Efron has distanced himself from the basketball-tossing, long-haired, singing teenager we all know him for.  

With other dramatic performances such as “Charlie St. Cloud” and “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” under his belt, Efron definitely delivers as a emotionally expressive actor.  

Seeing his reflection on nearly a decade of familial hardships is astounding to watch and ends the film on a definite note that time with family is limited. Overall, “The Iron Claw” is an emotionally impactful film that respectfully depicts the lives of a family that inspired, entrained, and wore their hearts on their bloody sleeves.  

My overall rating: 4.5/5 


Drew Coffey can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812

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About the Contributors
Drew Coffey
Drew Coffey, Reporter, Columnist
Drew is a senior television and video production major. He previously served as a reporter for The News.
Ashanti Thomas
Ashanti Thomas, Photographer
Ashanti Thomas is a senior digital media major. She previously served as photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.

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