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Blu-Ray : Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: March 26th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 2023

The Iron Claw

Overview -

Blu-ray Review By: Bryan Kluger
The Iron Claw brings the Von Erich story to film in a great, yet odd way, showcasing the good, the bad, and the very ugly of this family in their time in WCCW. Lionsgate gives the film a 1080p HD video presentation that is very good along with a DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix that sounds great, but an A24 exclusive 4K release is a safe bet and maybe what fans want to hold out for. If you need it in your collections right now - Recommended!

OVERALL:
Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/MPEG-4 AVC
Length:
132
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.85:1
Audio Formats:
English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH, Spanish
Special Features:
Brotherhood Is Forever: Making Iron Claw, Cast and Crew Q&A, and Theatrical Trailer
Release Date:
March 26th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

Biopic films usually tell a wonderful story of heartache, happiness, success, downfalls, and love in various ways. There is one biopic that hasn't been examined in narrative form other than some documentaries and interviews in the pro wrestling world that is unarguably the most interesting and sad. That is the story of the Von Erich family in Texas who rose to superstardom as pro-wrestlers and was met with tragedy. A24 and director Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene), uniquely told their story with the help of the surviving member of the family Kevin Von Erich. Its different style and time jumps lay out an odd tone and ground for the narrative to stand on, but it gets the job done in a sentimental if not cheesy way. But perhaps this family's story is just too depressing and sad to tell in full.

For those that are not aware of the Von Erich story, it's nostalgic with great memories along with very painful thoughts as this Texas family was bred to be the powerhouse pro-wrestlers who took over the industry in the '70s and '80s. And for a very short while, they became just that. Wrestling with the likes of Ric Flair, Iron Sheik, and more in World Class Championship Wrestling at the infamous Sportaorium in Dallas (where this trusty narrator was a fan at the time and watched them wrestle). Through their weekly matches, the Von Erich brothers were a force to be reckoned with and became the baby faces (heroes) of pro wrestling. But suicide and illnesses took each of the brothers one by one and only Kevin was left standing.

Their signature move was the titular The Iron Claw which had the brothers use their hands to grab the face of their opponent and squeeze that would render them unconscious. Many iterations of that technique are still used today, but it originated and became popular with the Von Erichs. The movie focuses on Kevin (an impressive Zac Efron) and his brother David (Harris Dickinson) who are training to make it big in pro wrestling. Their father and all of his sons sit at the table while their mother makes breakfast as he tells his children the order of how much he likes them. Right there is the start of their family competition to become the best with no mistakes which is where their anxiety and depression are born. Younger brothers Kerry (Jeremy Allen White of The Bear) and Mike (Stanley Simons) are younger and aren't coached by their father like they want to be. But the brothers find their way in their respective talents of either vocal mic work or athleticism to win the love and appreciation of their father.

But Durkin jumps around with timing in this 132-minute film and showcases only a few highlights of the brothers getting married, their rise to fame, and the eventual deaths in the family. There's not a lot of happiness in the film as Durkin wanted the depressing tone to amplify as the movie went on and reveal the loyalty of the brothers to their family. Plus the family drama with their dad Fritz putting a ton of unwarranted pressure on his sons to be the best makes things worse instead of praising or raising a family. But how the story is structured is a mistake as it jumps around without a forward motion and when these tragedies come into play, it doesn't necessarily evoke tears, but rather hallmarks the music and execution up to a high cheese warning.

The best element of the film is Zac Efron and it's a travesty that he was not recognized this past award season for his role as Kevin. He is phenomenal not only in the emotional category, playing a nuanced and volatile role in this wrestling world, but also in his physical performance in the squared circle where the matches were filmed all in one shot with a live crowd. It's effective and wonderful to watch unfold on screen. I just wish the film's tone had been more fluid without any of the ceese factor with Kevin seeing his brothers again as ghosts.

 

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Iron Claw grapples its way to Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Code via A24 and Lionsgate with a two-disc set that is housed inside a hard, blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve. There is an insert for a digital code. The artwork features the lead three actors with the wrestling belt held high. 

Video Review

Ranking:

The Iron Claw comes with a 1080p HD transfer that looks great. There is no 4K option yet, but it's pretty much guaranteed a special A24 UHD release will be happening at some point. Until then though, this HD image looks wonderful.

The color palette has a very warm, almost fantasy-like hue to it. The Texas ranch has a ton of yellows, faded greens, light blues, oranges, and browns that go on for days. Inside the Von Erich home, the earthy tones are on display. Inside the wrestling ring, the amber lights of the '70s and '80s burn bright. Darker sequences give way to blue filters and inky black levels without any crush or murky shadows. The wedding sequence brings in the most fun color with bigger primaries that boast off the screen.

The detail is sharp and vivid throughout as well. The close-ups reveal practical makeup applications, individual hairs, stubble, facial pores, and sweat beads. Wider shots don't go soft in exteriors either. But the real winner here is that the film was shot on old-school 35mm stock from Kodak. And the film grain and aesthetic is that of a movie from the '70s or '80s. It looks phenomenal that way with no digital sheen on it whatsoever. A24 usually does a spectacular job with their image presentations and this one is no different. 

Audio Review

Ranking:

This release comes with a DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix but according to the credits, was made with Dolby Atmos in mind. Hopefully, that means if and when this comes to 4K we get to experience that track. But this DTS-HD 5.1 audio does a great job bringing the wrestling world to life. Sound effects are robust with farm sounds in Texas and old truck engines revving down the road. Noises of plates and silverware clanking together always bring the natural ambiance to the forefront. The sound design really kicks in at the Sportatorium during wrestling shows. The meat slaps and chops across chests and arms are vicious and when a body slams down on the ring floor, it comes with a bang full of bass. The ring ropes tighten and bounce with great sound and the roar of the crowd in the surround speakers is fantastic. The low end of the bass has a good rumble too. The music and song cues always match the era and tone of the scene. Dialogue is clean, clear, and easy to follow along. English and Spanish subtitles are provided. 

Special Features

Ranking:

There are about 54 minutes of bonus features spread across two extras, which boast tons of good interviews and on-set footage. 

  • Brotherhood is Forever (HD, 30 Mins.) - A decent-sized EPK making off with tons of cast and crew interviews and on-set footage that discuss the story, the real family, the wrestling, and more. It's a fear watch.
  • Cast and Crew Q & A (HD, 21 Mins.) - The cast and crew, along with Kevin Von Erich answer questions about the film. 
  • Trailer (HD, 3 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.

Final Thoughts

The Iron Claw covers some of the Von Erich dynasty over a few years. It's by no means the ultimate way to tell their story, but an artistic and sometimes cheesy way to do so with one hell of a performance from Zac Efron. The 1080p HD video looks great and the DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix sounds wonderful. A couple of bonus features are well worth the time too. Until a 4K edition is ready, this Blu-ray set is Recommended!  

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