Real Steel ReviewNovember 8, 2011
Real Steel is one of those movies that just has a bad marketing campaign. Every trailer I saw just made me cringe at how bad this movie seemed, and soon everyone was calling it the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots movie. After hearing some positive reviews, however, I decided to check it out in a month where there really was nothing great in theaters- and Real Steel was the only one that wasn’t in 3D, which I really can no longer stand (and can no longer stand paying extra for).
Hugh Jackman is one of those actors who will take just about any job. Remember Van Helsing? Neither does anyone else. Yes, he’s usually the best thing about the X-Men movies, and he was great in The Prestige, but I didn’t know what to expect from him here. Luckily, he puts out one of his better performances in this movie, which turned out to be a heartfelt film about human relationships, much more so than robot fighting. Director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) does a great job of grounding this movie in reality, when it could have easily ventured into the land of the ridiculous as its trailers made it seem. It’s mostly a story of a boxer who’s lost his way, finding more in common with The Fighter than Transformers, although the CG used for the robot fights is pretty damn cool looking.
Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, a down on his luck former boxer who lost his job when human boxing was outlawed in favor of having robots duke it out in the ring. Dakota Goyo does a surprisingly decent job as Charlie’s son in the movie, whom Charlie has basically never seen or had anything to do with. He is suddenly thrust back into his life when a custody hearing is scheduled, and Charlie sells the custody of his kid to a rich relative for $100,000. Yeah, you can see what kind of a douchebag they make Charlie out to be at the beginning of the film. The only thing that seems to make him happy is Charlie’s ex-flame Bailey (Evangeline Lilly), who runs the beat-up gym he lives in, which used to belong to her dad- and Charlie’s former trainer back in the good ‘ol days. It’s good to see Evangeline Lilly on the big screen, as the last time I saw her was very briefly in The Hurt Locker. She was always great on LOST and so I’d love to see more of her.
Of course you know by the end Charlie and his kid will bond with each other and get back on Bailey’s good side, and maybe gain some redemption in the process. I could hear Jackman saying, “I don’t want your money” to the rich guy long before it happens in the movie. Yes, some aspects are a bit predictable, but it’s all handled much better than I’m used to in these kinds of movies, and so I was pleasantly surprised. If you enjoy boxing movies or robot movies, preferably both, you’ll definitely get a kick out of Real Steel.