Real Steel is one of those movies that you see the trailer and think “Hugh Jackman…Boxing Robots…hmmm.” You can’t expect Oscar material, but a part of you is hoping it’ll bring you back to those childhood days watching Amblin films. Luckily, Hugh Jackman…Boxing Robots…is well worth it.
Jackman plays Charlie Denton, an ex-boxer working the low level robot boxing circuit in the near future. He’s a jerk. He owes everyone and their mother money, and when his fighter ‘Ambush’ gets demolished in a Texas rodeo, he’s hit rock bottom. This all changes, however, when he receives word his ex wife has died in a car crash, leaving his estranged son, Max (Dakota Goyo), in his custody. With an Aunt eagerly wanting to adopt Max, Denton weasels his way into selling the kid to her rich husband so he can buy the famed robot ‘Noisy Boy’ and continue competing in the circuit. The only problem is, he has to take care of Max for rest of the summer, something he’s not cut out for. But since the kids got an attitude, he forces Denton to take him along for the ride.
As they compete, Denton’s impulsive personality lands him into even more dirt when he gets Noisy Boy destroyed. With no other choice, he takes Max to the scrap yard for a new fighter, where the kid finds ‘Atom’, an old school sparring bot he believes will be their champion. Tension ensues as they both try to make Atom a winner and take him to the big leagues.
You can pretty much see where this is going, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Cheaper by the Dozen) hits us with great boxing matches, stunning shots on the American Heartlands, and most importantl, building a great dynamic between Jackman and Goyo from the start. Not to mention elevating Richard Matheson’s short story (which became a twilight zone episode with Lee Marvin) to a whole new level. There’s plenty in here for both kids and adults to enjoy.
Is Real Steal formulaic? Yes. Does a Limp Bizkit song play during one of the fights? Yes. Is Phil Lamar one of the commentators for the end battle? Maybe. But rest assured, Real Steel is a father-son story first, sports movie second. The only reason we remotely care about what we’re watching is because of the chemistry Jackman and Goyo share on screen, which is superb. Add in a great cast of supporting actors like Evangeline Lily, Anthony Mackie, and the always entertaining Kevin Durand, and you’ve got yourself a piece of good ‘ole Hollywood Cinema.