Family success stories, whether in entertainment or sports, often come with the traumatic addition of a domineering father figure who worked his children to the bone. In the official trailer for A24’s forthcoming film The Iron Claw, director Sean Durkin captures the Von Erich brothers’ real-life experience with this formula for achievement and the inseparable, if at times crippling, bond it creates.
“Ever since I was a child, people said My family was cursed,” Kevin Von Erich, portrayed by Zac Efron, states in the trailer. “Mom tried to protect us with God. Pop tried to protect us with wrestling. He said if we were the toughest, strongest, nothing could ever hurt us. I believed it. We all did.”
Under the guidance of their father, Fritz Von Erich (Holt McCallany), the brothers began to shape the legacy of their family in the ring. At one point, he lists them all off in order of his favoritism: Kerry (Jeremy Allen White) is first, then Kevin (Efron), then David (Harris Dickinson), and finally Mike (Stanley Simons), the youngest of the quartet.
“We’re here to restore justice to the wresting federation that our father built with his own two hands,” David declares in the clip. “The hands that were passed down to us. The hands that will deliver the iron claw down to you.”
But the pressure of their mission begins to weigh on their already battered bodies. When they plead with their mother (Maura Tierney), urging her to step in because their father is being too tough on them, she replies simply: “That’s what your brothers are for.” And under the weight of their own trauma, plus that of their family — especially as Kevin begins to build his own family with his wife Pam Adkisson (Lily James) — they begin to crack and crumble.
“The true story of the inseparable Von Erich brothers, who made history in the intensely competitive world of professional wrestling in the early 1980s,” a synopsis for the film reads. “Through tragedy and triumph, under the shadow of their domineering father and coach, the brothers seek larger-than-life immortality on the biggest stage in sports.”