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Reviews are in for the Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White-led wrestling drama The Iron Claw, and they’re incredible

The Iron Claw debuts next month

The cast of the Iron Claw.

As we near the end of the year, there are still plenty of movies that audiences are looking forward to. The race for awards is heating up, which means that many of the year’s most exciting titles will be released in the next month and a half. However, there are very few titles left that are a total mystery to critics, who are typically the first people to see these movies. One of the last mysteries of the season finally has some initial reviews, and they’re pretty stellar.

The Iron Claw, which documents the rise to wrestling stardom of the Von Erich family, follows a group of brothers who all follow in their father’s footsteps by entering the ring. The movie is ultimately a tragic story since many of the brothers died at young ages. Starring Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich and Jeremy Allen White as Kerry Von Erich, the movie also features performances from Harris Dickinson, Holt McCallany, and Maura Tierney.

The movie has already attracted plenty of attention thanks to the combination of its distributor, A24, and its director, Sean Durkin, who is known for making these kinds of twisty, suspenseful stories. Its cast of young talent, who underwent physical transformations to prepare for their roles as professional wrestlers, has made many people curious about what the finished product might look like.

Efron and White have been particularly vocal about what they put their bodies through for this film. For Efron, it was about modifying his workouts in past movies and allowing himself to carry more body fat than he had when he bulked up for something like Baywatch. “He’s so focused and knowledgeable on training, diet, etc. In terms of a physical transformation, I think he blew us all out of the water. He looks amazing in this thing,” White said of Efron in an interview with Esquire. White also stated that they both bulked up in part by just eating continuously.

What viewers think of The Iron Claw

Now, we have a sense of if all that work paid off. The film had its first screening for critics on November 12, and the reactions have been overwhelmingly positive thus far. Here’s what they’re saying:

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

— 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

#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.

— Clayton Davis (@ByClaytonDavis) November 12, 2023

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.

— Anne Thompson (@akstanwyck) 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.

— 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.

— 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.

— Courtney Howard (@Lulamaybelle) November 12, 2023

The Iron Claw is like The Virgin Suicides for boys (complimentary)

— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) November 14, 2023

THE IRON CLAW delves into the tragic story of the Von Erich’s with utmost reverence. Zac Efron delivers his most physically & emotionally demanding performance to date. Some of the best depictions of wrestling ever seen on film. A profound human drama of love, family & resiliency

— Matt Neglia (@NextBestPicture) November 9, 2023

THE IRON CLAW: a heartbreaking tragedy steeped in Americana. Efron, White, Simon, and Dickinson add such interiority to their portrayal of the Von Erich family that it makes what happens sting so much more. Artful, empathetic, and at times exhilarating. Wiping tears away.

— James Preston Poole (@JamesPPoole) November 9, 2023

The Iron Claw is a late year gem. At times a gutting, it also has deeply moving moments and is grounded by a sensitive performance from Zac Efron. Cinematography is a standout and the whole cast is excellent. This was a tightrope of a story but Sean Durkin walked it beautifully

— Brother Bro (@withbrotherbro) November 14, 2023

Just how far The Iron Claw will go this awards season remains to be seen. There are often a couple of end-of-year surprises that manage to sneak their way into the Oscars race, but Durkin’s films have not yet crossed that barrier. Given how long many have been waiting to see what Efron might be able to do in the hands of a capable director, though, it seems possible that The Iron Claw could be that breakthrough effort.

The Iron Claw is set to hit theaters on Friday, December 22, just a few days before Christmas. It may not be the uplifting movie of the season, but it’s gearing up to be one of the best-reviewed.

Editors' Recommendations

Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance culture writer based in upstate New York. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The…
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