The Shen Pen

The Student News Site of Shenendehowa High School

The Shen Pen

The Shen Pen

“The Iron Claw” A Biographical Shortcoming


With the arrival of a new month, comes the monthly release of new movies and TV shows on HBO Max. One of these releases is the A24 biopic “The Iron Claw.” Released in December of last year, the film tells the heart-wrenching story of the Von Erichs, a famous wrestling family prominent in the 1950s to early 90s.

The biographical sports film depicts the struggles specifically of each son in the family, all attempting to achieve the same success that their father previously had, in his past wrestling career. 

The film centers the plot around a “curse” that casts constant tragedy amongst the family. Famously only one out of all four of the Von Erich brother lives to this day, the latter all sporadically dying by suicide. 

When discussing the challenge of tackling such a vulnerable and tragic true story, director Sean Durkin told Vulture, “‘I really believe that constraints lead to great creative choices, discipline and rigor.’”

The film itself had enormous constraints when it came to depicting the deaths of the three brothers, allowing the viewer to focus more on the overall family dynamic, rather than the dramatization of each individual brother’s death. In this sense, Durkin was able to respectively tell a true story, without glamorizing the deaths and afflictions of the family. 

However, Durkin’s focus on restraint did not come without major consequences. By censoring so much of the truth, he failed to identify the sole reason why the family fell apart in the first place, that is, the father, Fritz Von Erich. 

The source of Durkin’s error lies with his decision to use a supernatural “curse” to excuse and explain the events that occurred within the family. By using an uncanny phenomenon to tell a true story with real people involved, he unintentionally allows for the film to become a dramatic spectacle, not a piece of art with meaning behind it. 

Realistically, there is no “curse”. Fritz Von Erich was an emotionally abusive father to all his sons. The intense pressure and criticism that he displayed led to his children’s self-destruction, and his denial of his role in that is the true tragedy the film should portray. It is disappointing, because the film itself attempts to show this, but it does not accurately do so. It spends too much time building a plot around a fantastical occurrence that mocks the true pain these brother’s experienced in real life. 

To give Durkin some credit, it is an extremely difficult job to make a biographical film in this day and age; audiences today want shock-factor stories, often prioritizing dramatization over accuracy. Furthermore, he did have the right intentions and ideas, but it was muddied by his attempt to stay within strict guidelines, and add some sort of “unique” spin to a story that never needed it in the first place. 

“The Iron Claw” is a movie still worth watching; it is a moving story about the connection of four brothers in a tough situation. Durkin’s errors might stem from a more systematic Hollywood error: the focus on exaggerated dramatization rather than just telling an authentic story, which is what the Von Erich brothers ultimately deserve. 

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Shen Pen

Your donation will support the student journalists of Shenendehowa High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Shen Pen

Comments (0)

All The Shen Pen Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *