Starring: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo, Kevin Durand, Anthony Mackie
|Put up your dukes|
In the near future, audience demands for spectator-sport carnage have grown so high that human fighters have been replaced with robots. On the understanding that, you know, robots can rip each other's limbs and heads off and there's no loss of life.
That is the simple notion behind the film's setting – the world of robot boxing – and I say "simple" because I don't buy the idea that people will be appeased by robot gladiators pounding each other into scrap outside of a Transformers movie.
There's a reason the word is "bloodthirsty" and not "oilthirsty".
Well, that quibble aside, Real Steel turned out to be pretty close to the Real Deal as far as fight flicks go.
While not in the same league as Warrior, this sci-fi-themed film works on several levels.
Its fight scenes have that whole Rocky underdog vibe going, the drama touches the heart without getting cloying, and there's a general sense of good humour maintained throughout the film that keeps even the tense moments from getting too intense.
|Hopefully Jackman will be back as Wolverine soon|
Jackman puts in a winning performance as Charlie Kenton, a washed-up boxer who now ekes out a living managing robot boxers while searching for that one big payday that will have him set up for life.
The pursuit of this "dream" has left him in debt to numerous nasty types, and he's also losing all credibility with childhood friend and sometimes-landlady Bailey Tallet (Lilly), the daughter of his late boxing trainer and mentor.
With so much going wrong … er, on in his life, can you blame Charlie for forgetting that he has a son? Of course you can, but who could pin an abandonment rap on Hugh Jackman for long? (Yeah, it's mostly Jackman's show, though he is matched every step of the way by his young co-star. And sometimes even outpunched.)
Anyway, Charlie ends up "caring" for 11-year-old Max (Goto) after the lad's mother dies, but the kid is just another meal ticket to him … initially.
Father and son, strangers at the outset, have a rough time at first but eventually bond over a sparring robot named Atom that Max rescues from the junk pile.
It dawns on them that Atom is no ordinary sparring robot – and soon, the little feller ("little" in comparison to the other metal behemoths he fights) is making waves on the robot boxing circuit.
The Kentons and Atom eventually catch the attention of the powerful Lemkova family, which manages the world champion 'bot, Zeus. Care to guess where Atom's fairytale run will lead them? Don't worry … you'll be absolutely right.
Real Steel is smart enough to declare that it's only "partly" based on the Richard Matheson short story Steel, which was previously made into a Twilight Zone episode back in the 1960s.
Smart, because the "partly" lets it play with the concept of robot boxing in ways that sticking faithfully to the source material would not allow.
While I still find it hard to believe that bloodthirsty people would get all stirred into a frenzy over robots (and not living beings) tearing each other apart, I will say that Real Steel does what it's here to do.
It gets us all fired up, puts on a good show for the yokels … er, moviegoers … and fades out with a "Yo, Adrian, I did it!" moment that undeniably shows that the Rocky movies, more than Matheson's story, inspired its filmmakers.
And still, this movie about a busted-up piece of junk helping to mend broken and nonexistent relationships has more heart than the last couple of movies with the Italian Stallion. I'd call that, um, Iron-y.