HOLLYWOOD—There are movies that can be depressing, and then there are movies that are downright depressing as hell. It has been a while since I’ve witnessed a movie that just delivered blow after blow after blow to the audience. The wrestling drama “The Iron Claw” is one of those flicks. The drama tells the story of the Von Erich family which consisted of a core group of brothers who all stepped into the ring following the footsteps of their overbearing father Jack ‘Fritz’ Von Erich, played wonderfully by Holt McCallany.

Fritz really didn’t get to live out his dream as a professional wrestler so he’s pushing his ambitions onto his sons who dance around the issue of whether to pursue their own aspirations or to make their father proud, no matter what the cost. At the core of the brothers is Kevin Von Erich portrayed by Zac Efron. Efron is quite exceptional in the role, and he commands the screen. Out of all the brothers he is the most developed and has the most tension with his father, but that tension is never fully explored to the satisfaction of the spectator. Efron is the oldest living sibling after he divulges to Pam (Lily James) that his oldest brother died when he was a child.

James is perhaps the heart of the movie. She brings a softness and levity to the drama that seems to revolve around the Von Erich family who refuses to display their emotions. This is most evident from Doris Von Erich (Maura Tierney), the matriarch of the family. Doris is so underutilized in the film. She shows literally no emotion, and when she finally displays a tinge of grief as a viewer you want to see more. I wanted to see full-blown tears, a scream, a breakdown, anything that could show more than what was being witnessed on the big screen.

That is the same with the brothers, David (Harris Dickinson), Kerry (Jeremy Allen White) and Mike (Stanley Simons). The brothers are underdeveloped. With Mike, the audience at least gets to see a fan of music, but I wanted to see that narrative developed a bit more because out of all the brothers, it was evident that Mike was the one who had no interest in following in the family footsteps of wrestling. With Kerry, we learn he returns home after a boycott of the Olympics where upon his father suggesting, he joins the brothers in the wrestling ring.

Kevin appears to be the sole brother who actually wants to follow in his father’s footsteps, but it appears his father is dismissive of him and punishes him by not fulfilling his potential as a wrestler the way his father expects. For the movie to be about wrestling, it truly takes a backseat to the actual drama that becomes the focal point of the Von Erich family. The drama is potent, but it is not nuanced and that is the issue for “The Iron Claw.” This family endures some tragedies and if the movie is reminiscent of what actually transpired in real-life the heart aches.

The narrative just delivers tragedy after tragedy without much of a breather between the drama and it just feels like the pacing is off. When the audience has a breather that is near the big climax of the movie that is partially satisfying, but I wanted more. “The Iron Claw” left me wanting a nuanced level of drama, but it knocked me over the head with the drama and not giving the audience a moment to digest what unfolded.

Efron carries the movie, but he is not able to do it alone, and it is a direct result of the script that focuses so much more on tragedy than the development of characters. We see these brothers clearly care about one another, that dynamic should have been explored a bit more. We see a glimpse of how Kevin interacts with Pam upon first meeting her, that should have been explored more, in addition to the Von Erich’s family’s tie to religion, which is the reason so many of them have this tough wall up when it comes to displaying their emotions.

None of those things are explored which would have brought a balance to the drama that unfolds throughout the film. “The Iron Claw” attempts heavy drama, but fails at delivering the right punch for the viewer.