The Iron Claw is ‘shallow’ and ‘bland’

When a fan named Pam (a game Lily James) pursues Kevin, they start dating, and he tells her he wants nothing more in life than to be with his brothers, an intense bond that is asserted rather than fleshed out on screen. Then, voila, Kevin and Pam marry. Moura Tierney plays the boys’ deeply religious mother, who tells Kevin, when he wants to talk to her about a problem, “That’s what your brothers are for”. Like so much in the film, that scene is psychologically ominous, but not deep.

Efron and White have transformed their bodies for their roles and do some amazing stunts in the ring, as the brothers leap on opponents or use the Von Erichs’ signature move, the Iron Claw, bare hands crushing an opponent’s skull. Durkin balances the wrestling and family scenes well, and in glimpses shows himself to be a fine filmmaker. A triple-exposure of the brothers’ faces reveals them enduring the physical pain that resulted from their sport.

The drama eventually picks up when the disasters begin to hit. A quick internet search can tell you about the tragedies, but they are surprises in the film, and shouldn’t be spoiled. Durkin doesn’t depict the events, just the aftermath and effect on the family. Those few deft touches don’t go very far, though. A bit of sibling rivalry near the end lands as a relief, signalling – much too late – that these brothers are human after all.

★★☆☆☆

The Iron Claw is released on 22 December in the US, and 9 February 2024 in the UK.

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