THE IRON CLAW (MA15+)
Director: Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Starring: Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, Holt McCallany
The fight is fixed, but the final result unknown
Sure, professional wrestling has long been regarded as the fakest thing in the world of sports.
However, all that comes to pass in The Iron Claw – the true story of a tragically ill-fated family of topline grapplers – never feels less than all too real.
This subtly insightful movie transports us deep inside “the squared circle” once dominated by the Von Erich clan, a quartet of Texan brothers who rose to prominence as the 1970s became the 1980s.
Their complicated careers were clinically masterminded by father Fritz (Holt McCallany), a former wrestling star who blew his own shot at the big time as a younger man.
The Iron Claw’s Von Erich brothers. Picture: Roadshow
As The Iron Claw begins, the most likely of the Von Erich bros to snatch a title belt is Kevin (Zac Efron), a hard-training type who follows his dad’s demands to the last letter.
However, there is one weapon missing from Kevin’s arsenal. He just can’t rev up the motormouth skills required to trash-talk his opponents during televised bouts.
Therefore younger brother David (Harris Dickinson) might be destined for better things, as he is definitely a natural in front of the cameras.
Then again, both might have to step aside so that Kerry (Jeremy Allen White from the acclaimed streaming series The Bear) can enter the ring. He used to be one of the best discus throwers in the US until his country’s boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics blocked his preferred path to glory.
As for the youngest brother Mike (Stanley Simons), no-one expects much. He’d rather be pursuing a career in music, and it shows.
The Von Erich brothers present a united front to the world that is inspirationally indestructible – or so it seems.
Though the variously internal rivalries and alliances within the family are clear for all to see – and ruthlessly exploited by Fritz as both father and manager – the Von Erich brothers present a united front to the world that is inspirationally indestructible.
Or so it seems. Small mistakes made begin to have big consequences. Major chances of success that could set the brothers up for life become missed opportunities that may haunt them forever.
If they indeed survive to bow out of the business on their own terms.
Surprisingly but compellingly, The Iron Claw (named after Fritz’s signature grip) recedes into darker and deeper places than most will expect.
Performances across the board are soulfully on point throughout (especially Efron and White) and the takeaways delivered to viewers are potently haunting.
The Iron Claw is now showing in general release
Jacob Elordi and Cailee Spaeny in Priscilla.
Approach this as a forlorn, but truly fascinating flipside to 2022’s Elvis biopic. Now the perspective switches to the woman who wasn’t just behind the man, but often completely obscured by him: Priscilla Beaulieu Presley. Without an Elvis track to be heard and most conventional references to the myth of ‘The King’ ignored, this gently inquisitive movie clears all the space it can to study the relationship of Priscilla and Elvis as the strange specimen it undoubtedly was.
The movie opens strongly, conveying all too vividly what it must have been like for a 14-year-old girl to be swept away by the most famous man in the world at that time. The underlying dysfunction of this early phase of the relationship is almost inconceivable when viewed through the filter of our modern sensibilities. The performance of Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla is so perfectly pitched in these crucial early scenes that we come to at least understand (if not accept) how such a situation came to be.
Just as pivotal to the grip exerted by the movie is Australian Jacob Elordi’s nuanced portrayal of Elvis as an oddly chaste, yet openly controlling figure. As the movie solemnly forges on through the surreal daily life at Graceland, and then towards a doomed and distant marriage, Priscilla’s journey from utter infatuation to complete isolation becomes all the more stark and solitary.
MEAN GIRLS (PG)
Avantika Vandanapu, Angourie Rice, Renee Rapp and Bebe Wood in Mean Girls. Picture: Jojo Whilden/Paramount
The next movie musical to happen along after the sublime songsmith-ery of Wonka was always to going to be up against it. However, what Mean Girls has working in its favour is a strong storytelling base. After all, the original movie of the same name from 2004 remains one of the wiser, sharper and funnier rumbles through the high school jungle.
This new production (more a cover version than a remake) is at its best when it sticks to skewering the cliques and freaks who can make a teenager’s life a misery, a joy and an ordeal all at once.
Tina Fey and Angourie Rice in Mean Girls. Picture: Jojo Whilden/Paramount
Australia’s Angourie Rice does OK filling the shoes of Lindsay Lohan in the lead role of new school arrival Cady. However, whenever Renee Rapp steps into frame as Regina (the notorious queen of those insolent influencers ‘The Plastics’), there can be no mistaking who the real star of the show is here.