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Real Steel

A movie directed by Shawn Levy

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Real Steel Delivers a Fresh Take on an Old Genre.

  • Oct 8, 2011
  • by

Boxing movies have been a staple of Hollywood for decades. Some of the earliest celluloid offerings documented pugilistic bouts in films such as Raging Bull, The Fighter, and the iconic Rocky series and helped boxing cement itself in both popular and cinematic culture.

In the film “Real Steel”, Hugh Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, a down-on-his-luck promoter whose best days are definitely behind him. In the near-future setting of the film, robots have replaced humans in the boxing ring and Charlie is constantly and desperately looking for the next big thing to help him claim a little fame and a lot of fortune.

Following the loss of his fighting robot, Charlie is summoned to Texas after the passing of his ex-girlfriend, the mother of his son. Charlie is eager to sign over the guardianship of his son, Max, to Max’s aunt, but after noticing her wealthy husband, decides to take advantage of the situation. Charlie makes a deal to sign over the guardianship of his son Max, (Dakota Goyo) in exchange for a large sum of money which he plans to use to get back into the robot fighting game. The catch for Charlie is that he must watch Max for the summer so Max’s future parents can take a planned trip to Italy.

Max is quickly thrown into the robot-fighting world when he forces his dad to take him along to a bout. Unfortunately, it’s yet another painful loss for Charlie and their first father-son trip ends with them scouring a junkyard for robot replacement parts. It’s Max who literally stumbles across an old robot and becomes convinced that the discarded machine could become a champion given the right conditions. Despite his misgivings, Charlie agrees to train the robot and in doing so gets to reconnect with his estranged son. Charlie is given a shot at redemption when Max’s robot becomes a fighting success and starts to advance through the rankings.

Naturally with increased success comes increased expectations and risks for Charlie and Max’s robot. There are numerous people looking for them to fail, as there is no way that a washed up boxer with a kid and an outdated machine can take on the machines of the professional circuit. Predictably, but still grippingly so, the outdated robot, named Atom, makes his way from seedy fighting pits to upscale arenas. Eventually the Atom team is given a shot at the big time which, as fans of sports films know, is destined to end with a climactic bout with the larger-than-life champion.

What sets “Real Steel” apart from other CGI laden action films is the human element and emotional connections you make with the characters, and even the blue-eyed junkyard robot itself. Although Atom is a CGI construct of a machine, you find yourself pulling for this unlikely underdog just as much its flesh and blood costars. The action sequences are intense and amazing to look at but never overshadow the underlying storyline of love and redemption.

Jackman gives a believable performance as a seemingly callous individual with no redeeming qualities. (Remember, he essentially sold his son). Evangaline Lily, is solid and likeable in a supporting role as Charlie’s old friend and former love interest. Goyo, fresh off his work playing the younger Thor in this past summer’s blockbuster, does a remarkable job in what is likely his breakout role. He has the spunky innocence of youth with a maturity that I had not seen in any young actor since Haley Joel Osment in the Sixth Sense.

“Real Steel” may not be the most original film, as aside from the robots this is a boxing tale that is been told many times before. I definitely saw lots of elements of the original Rocky but still found the film extremely enjoyable and entertaining as well as one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. It is rumored that a sequel is already in production and I actually hope that this is the case. This is one story I certainly wouldn’t mind going a few extra rounds with.

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October 09, 2011
Great review. Though I have to admit, I found a lot of those scenes emotional human hammy and cheesy, I thought the direction just used the wrong music and tone to generate an effective human drama; but I appreciate the way you managed to focus on the merits of the movie. This may be aright as a family movie but I would like to see a more faithful adaptation of the short story.
October 09, 2011
Well done.
More Real Steel reviews
review by . October 07, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
....If Sylvester Stallone Wrote A Movie About Robots...(Cue
I knew going into the film “Real Steel” that I was in for something not entirely special and yet I hoped for the best. I mean once you’ve seen the trailer, you already know where everything is headed, and let’s be honest here, the film does feel that it had been inspired by those little toy robots that you mash buttons to get them to do some boxing. I mean, it also comes complete with a boxing ring and the robots in “Real Steel” even have that inspired look. Well, …
review by . October 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'Real Steel' 'Two Jews On Film' Have A Split Decision Over This Family Action Flick (Video)
By Joan Alperin Schwartz      The year is 2020. Things look pretty much the same as they do now...Except in the world of boxing. Humans have evolved to the point where they no longer get excited by watching men and women pummel each other. Score one for us.      What we have instead is 'Robot Boxing' which I have to say is...really, really cool...especially the way it's depicted in this new fantasy, action film, called 'Real Steel' directed …
review by . October 08, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         In Shawn Levy’s Real Steel, hulking robots fight each other in back-alleys and sports arenas as frothing crowds cheer them on. This blending of science fiction and fantasy, coupled with the adrenaline rush from the sheer spectacle of brawling metal behemoths, automatically makes the robots more interesting than the human characters. I honestly don’t know if this flaw can be attributed to the underlying concept, which I think is in the …
review by . January 13, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
James and I watched Real Steel on Blu-ray last night and I am happy to say that surpassed my expectations! I am a Hugh Jackman fan (I mean, who isn't?) and I was intrigued by the idea of watching robots box. I was hooked after the first ten or fifteen minutes and gave the movie my undivided attention. The actors and directors did an amazing job with this film. My favorite part was when the kid was teaching the robot to dance. My husband looked at me and said "if we ever get a robot, that's the first …
Quick Tip by . November 23, 2011
OK, I pirated it off the net. Just passed half way thru I started scanning forward through the flick. I have deleted it from my computer. I had completely forgotten it until looking down this list. Hopefully it won't be long until I forget it again. Not even as good as Cowboys and Aliens.
Quick Tip by . October 08, 2011
Hugh shows he can be a leading man playing someone who is not heroic. The acting takes center stage over the incredible special effects. Shaw Levy did a great job balancing the complex and eye catching effects with the heartfelt story line. All of the principles did well. My only complaint is that there was a bit too much reliance on the smart, cute kid story line. On the other hand Shawn (and Hugh) took a lot of time to bring out the best performance out of Dakota Goyo playing Max, the son of Hugh's …
About the reviewer
Gareth Von Kallenbach ()
Ranked #111
I am a syndicated movie & game critic, writer, author and frequent radio guest. My work has appeared in over 60 publications worldwide and he is the creator of the rising entertainment site "Skewed … more
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About this movie



Director: Shawn Levy
Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Release Date: 7 October 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: John Gatins, Dan Gilroy
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