The Iron Claw

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Lionsgate;
Drama;
Box Office $35.07 million;
$39.99 Blu-ray/DVD;
Rated ‘R’ for language, suicide, some sexuality and drug use.
Stars Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, Maura Tierney, Stanley Simons, Michael J. Harney, Holt McCallany, Lily James.      

One of the hallmarks of old-school professional-wrestling was the way it was organized as a series of regional promotions that were essentially family businesses. Though the national and international sports-entertainment brands that now reign pay lip-service to this legacy, the corporate-dominated environment of today is a lot more engineered than the athletic populism once on display in the local circuits.

In the traditional system, the promotions would build their own rosters of popular local talent, with the territories connected though national organizations that determined a world champion who would tour the regions.

One of the best-known of the regional promotions was Texas’ World Class Championship Wrestling, controlled by the Von Erich family. As demonstrated in writer-director Sean Durkin’s The Iron Claw, the pro wrestling business could be fraught with hardship despite the deepest commitment, dedication and sacrifice. And no family paid a higher toll for their art than the Von Erichs, whose patriarch, Fritz Von Erich (real name Jack Adkisson), would watch five of his six sons die way too young.

The primary focus of The Iron Claw (the title refers to the family’s signature finishing move) is on Kevin Von Erich (played by a beefed up Zac Efron), the oldest surviving brother after Fritz’s first-born died as a child. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Kevin is set up as the primary star of WCCW, with hopes of fulfilling Fritz’s unrealized dream of bringing home the National Wrestling Alliance’s world title belt.

While Kevin’s in-ring physicality is solid, his charisma and microphone skills leave a lot to be desired, leading to him being passed over for title consideration in favor of his younger brother David (Harris Dickinson). Another brother, Kerry (Jeremy Allen White) joins the family business after his dreams of competing in the discus event at the Olympics are shattered by the 1980 U.S. boycott. He too surpasses Kevin in ring presence despite losing a foot in a motorcycle crash, eventually landing in the WWF (where he was known as the Texas Tornado owing to a wrestling style that emulated the motion of his discus toss). The fifth brother, Mike (Stanley Simons), is also pushed into becoming a wrestler despite an affinity for music.

While Fritz (Holt McCallany) continues to push his sons to fulfill his dream, Kevin meets the love of his life, Pam (Lily James), gets married and starts his own family. Sensing the pressure his brothers are under, he hopes his mother (Maura Tierney) will intercede, to no avail, furthering a rift between him and his father.

The film does a good job of re-creating the look and feel of classic 1970s and 1980s pro-wrestling, which should appeal to the nostalgia of fans of the Wild West era of the sport. The tragedy of the Von Erichs is handled delicately, with the deaths of the brothers handled more in reactions and reflections than direct depictions of the events.

Durkin’s screenplay also plays fast and loose with the actual timeline in a way that stays true to the spirit of what happened with a deference to narrative efficiency. While most of the other brothers also had wives and children, the film only deals with Kevin’s family. Meanwhile, a six brother, Chris, has been omitted as well, with Durkin saying including his death as well would have been too much tragedy for one film to bear.

The strength of the film is in the chemistry between the brothers, a dynamic carefully constructed through the earnest, heartfelt performances of all involved, particularly Efron, whose character is made to feel the full brunt of the family’s “curse.”

The Blu-ray includes two very effective extras. First is the really good half-hour “Brotherhood Is Forever” making of featurette, which is loaded with insightful interviews with the filmmakers, the cast, and Kevin Von Erich himself.

The real Kevin also participates in a great 21-minute Q&A that also features Durkin, Efron, White, McCallany, Tierney and Simons.

 

Wrath of Man

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 7/13/21;
Warner/MGM;
Action;
Box Office $27.4 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence throughout, pervasive language, and some sexual references.
Stars Jason Statham, Scott Eastwood, Andy Garcia, Holt McCallany, Jeffrey Donovan, Josh Hartnett, Laz Alonso, Chris Reilly, DeObia Oparei, Rob Delaney, Eddie Marsan.

Jason Statham’s fourth film with director Guy Ritchie is a brutal revenge thriller that uses a time-shifting narrative to maintain the mystery of its characters’ motivations and true identities.

Statham plays the newest employee of an armored truck company that is frequently targeted by a highly armed squad of thieves. His co-workers don’t think much of his icy demeanor until he single-handedly takes out a gang of attackers, which earns him the respect of his colleagues.

Yet it soon becomes clear he has another agenda, which relates to avenging one of the victims of the heist that opens the film — fantastically depicted in a single take from inside the van.

Ritchie, who also co-wrote the screenplay, which is based on the 2004 French film Cash Truck, directs with his usual flair for kinetic and brutal action, resulting in several extended shootouts that will leave the audience wondering who to trust.

The Blu-ray has contains no extras.

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