A movie with the soft heart (and by that, I mean the gooey, inspiring chunk) of Rocky, yet the solid, shiny outer shell of Transformers, Real Steel is a can’t miss for pure entertainment.
Oh, and despite a whole lot of robot brawling, this is one of the better kids films of the season. Honest.
OK, maybe it’s not a kids film by definition, but this one is good for kids. I dare you to name another tale that delivers such a warm message about the bond between father and son, yet does so surrounded by rock ‘em, sock ‘em creations that gleefully tear each other’s limbs off for sport. It’s quite something, I tell ya.
In Real Steel, the year is 2020, and robots have replaced humans in the boxing ring. Former prize fighter Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is spending his days and nights dodging loan sharks and booking one “has-been” robot after another in hopes of scoring a few paydays. He’s not a nice guy by any means, but, well, he’s Hugh Jackman, and for that, we’re cheering for him to stay in one piece, unlike the over-glorified tin cans that he’s banking on in the ring.
But opportunity, ethical or not, comes knocking in the form of Max (Dakota Goyo), Charlie’s estranged son. With his mother dead and his aunt wanting custody, Max becomes an extremely valuable bargaining chip for Charlie.
So, with a price tag on the kid’s head, Max spends the summer with Charlie, a season in which the two strangers find a discarded robot named Atom –– a rusty collection of nuts ‘n’ bolts, but with a fighting, almost human spirit –– and begin the most unlikely underdog run since Balboa’s glory days. They come together as a boy and his pop should while enjoying the ride.
Again, Real Steel owes a lot to the hokey, yet undeniably, winsome magic of Rocky, which shouldn’t come as a shocker. You want inspiration, why not use the best blueprint there is?
What is a legit surprise is how innovative the core of Real Steel is. Based on a 1950s’ Richard Matheson short story, it does make for interesting conversation. What if robots/cyborgs were to replace athletes in competition, relegating humans to the sideline as programmers? Could make for deep stuff, for sure. But Real Steel gives equal time to kid gloves and boxing gloves, and pulls out a win. It’s a well-oiled machine.
The feature is currently playing at Galaxy Cinemas in Vernon.
–– Jason Armstrong is the longtime film reviewer for The Morning Star.