We see the muscles before we see the men. The new The Iron Claw trailer opens with an image of Zac Efron, his shoulders bulging as he throws himself against a wrestling ring’s ropes. And before we see his face we hear him speak: “Ever since I was a child people said my family was cursed. Mom tried to protect us with God. Pop tried to protect us with wrestling. He said if we were the toughest, the strongest, nothing could ever hurt us.”
It’s an ominous voiceover, especially given the true story this A24 movie from director Sean Durkin is based on. The Iron Claw tells the saga of the Von Erichs, a Texan wrestling family that was beset by death after death, including multiple suicides. Efron plays Kevin Von Erich, the only one of patriarch Fritz Von Erich’s six sons who’s still alive today.
His brothers Kerry and David are portrayed by The Bear‘s Jeremy Allen White and Triangle of Sadness‘s Harris Dickinson, respectively. Holt McCallany, of Mindhunter fame, shows up as Fritz, the father who pushes his sons to the brink. Durkin, director of the 2011 cult-survivor drama Martha Marcy May Marlene, has assembled a cast of some of the hottest actors in Hollywood and gotten them ripped beyond belief for a project about masculinity gone awry.
While so many of today’s biggest male stars have bulked up for superhero movies, it’s fascinating to watch a trailer where the physiques are more oppressive than impressive. The way Durkin films these bodies makes them distinctly unappealing, highlighting how unnatural they are. The faces of the actors seem to shrink, dwarfed by their massive shoulders.
Aside from raising the possibility that we may soon have reason to drop the phrase “Oscar nominee Zac Efron” into casual conversation, Durkin’s presence behind the camera is reason enough to get excited for the Iron Claw trailer. While he’s still best known for putting Elizabeth Olsen on the map with Martha Marcy, this project is his followup to 2020’s distinctly underrated The Nest, a 1980s period piece about the corrosive nature of class that starred Jude Law and Carrie Coon.
A24 is releasing The Iron Claw on December 22—a feel-bad movie that might still be preferable to wrestling with your own family this holiday season.