Zac Efron holding up the belt in the Iron Claw

Zac Efron Proved His Prowess With Subtle Moments in ‘The Iron Claw’

With a movie all about the Von Erichs, it is hard to pinpoint what works the best in The Iron Claw but one thing is clear: Zac Efron is a super star. That’s not a surprise, but watching him bring Kevin Von Erich to life was a beautiful thing.

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It isn’t easy to cram the stories of the Von Erichs into one movie. Even The Iron Claw doesn’t include all of the brothers (famously Chris Von Erich was left out of the Sean Durkin film). But one thing that the movie does is lure you into the Von Erich family and make you care about them with humor and charm, and make you invested in each of the brothers before tragedy strikes and brings pain to the family. One of the ways its gets you to care about them is through the performances.

Each of those performances works because the cast knew exactly what they needed to do to bring the brothers to life, but Zac Efron really shines as Kevin Von Erich, the sole surviving brother of the Von Erich family. Without his performance, it wouldn’t work as well as it does.

In The Iron Claw, with the over the top moments and the vibrancy of the ring taking over the majority of the film, it takes the smaller moments to really drive home why Kevin Von Erich is such a staying power in the wrestling community and why the story of the Von Erich family is one that so many of us are drawn to. What works in The Iron Claw comes from Efron’s ability to bring these smaller moments to life in such a way that they stay with you throughout the movie, all leading to those final moments at the end.

A perfect end moment in a stellar film

All of Efron’s small choices—from his subtle choice of not letting tears fall at the funeral of David (Harris Dickinson) or how Kevin chooses to react to Pam (Lily James) hugging him over the death of Jack Jr. when he was a kid—come to a head in the last scene of the movie. Kevin is sobbing over his brothers all dying and leaving him alone, and he says that he’s not a brother anymore.

The weight of all those moments comes crashing down on you as you are watching it because you remember how he reacted to everything that happened to him. You’re remembering how this man shouldered each of his brothers pain and how he handled their deaths, and without Efron’s little moments all leading up to his final breakdown, it wouldn’t work.

Seeing the movie for a second time, I really saw that work all play into how it informs what Kevin is going through in the end, just highlighting how good Zac Efron is as a performer. Without those small moments and the nuance that he puts into Kevin, the last scene wouldn’t ring as true as it does, and it all is because Efron really understands who Kevin is and the kind of brother he was.

(featured image: A24)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her current obsession is Glen Powell's dog, Brisket. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.