Real Steel

It’s “Rock’em Sock’em Robots: The Movie.”  Well, that’s what I heard before I walked into the theater from everyone I knew who had seen the film including some fellow critics.  But this isn’t a movie that’s just about boxing robots.  This is a movie that is about a lot more. 

Earlier this summer there was another boxing movie called Warrior.  I enjoyed it but felt as though it was lacking in certain areas.  Most importantly it lacked “heart.”  But now, we have a boxing movie that delivers everything that a boxing movie should be, and adds a bit of a science fiction edge to it.  This is the type of movie that Warrior should have been.

The film, directed by Shawn Levy takes place in the year 2020.  In the sport of boxing, robots have replaced humans, largely because they can fight until the other is completely destroyed.  Hugh Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, a former boxer who fights his robot in illegal robot boxing matches to make money.  Charlie isn’t exactly on the up-and-up and owes many people a lot of money.  In the first match we see, his robot Ambush is destroyed by a bull that is owned by Ricky (Kevin Durand).  The bet was for $20k, money that Charlie doesn’t have so he skips town without paying.

Real Steel

In need of a new robot he heads to his former mentor’s daughter, Bailey Tallet’s (Evangeline Lily) gym where he finds out that his ex-girlfriend has passed away.  As a result he has to go to court to determine the custody of his 11-year old son Max (Dakota Goyo) of which he’s known of, but has zero relationship with.  In need of money, and considering that his sister-in-law aunt Debra (Hope Davis) is determined to have custody of Max, he strikes a deal with Uncle Marvin (James Rebhorn) to pay $50k upfront on the condition that Charlie takes in Max until the end of the summer so he can take Debra overseas.

With money in hand, and now an 11-year old son as well, Charlie invests the money in a new robot, but because of his stubbornness and stupidity winds up losing the new robot as well.  Scavenging for parts in a junk yard, Max stumbles upon a completely intact robot named Atom.

When the two of them get Atom working, they discover that he is a sparring bot and has something that most robots do not have, which is “shadow mode” in which Atom can reproduce any movements he sees with his eyes.  Max, convinced that Atom is something special convinces Charlie to get him a fight and Atom outperforms everyone’s expectations.

Real Steel

Considering that Shawn Levy had boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard as the advisor for the fight shots, the boxing is excellent.  The scenes between the robots are incredibly realistic and come across remarkably well.  I especially liked the scenes where Atom was in “shadow mode” with Jackman and the movements of both Jackman and Atom were completely on point.

Jackman does a very good job in his character, a man who has fought his entire life, but has never really fought for anything important.  When Goyo’s character comes into his life, he learns that there are things worth believing in and fighting for well beyond money.  His character starts off a bit of a child, and grows into the man he should have been.  And on the opposite side of that story, Goyo’s Max starts off too mature for his age considering what he’s been thru, and as a result of the bonding he has with his father, regains that childhood in the end.

This may not be the best boxing movie of all time, but it reminds me a bit of Rocky.  You will root for Atom, the underdog, along with Charlie and Max.  They’re fighting an uphill battle in the ring, and in their personal lives.  But remember, the most important thing about fighting is to fight for something worth fighting for.  Like the bond between a father and a son.

FINAL GRADE:  A –

Reel Film News Movie Review by Bill Ayres

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