Stars: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Kevin Durand, Anthony Mackie, Karl Yune, Hope Davis and James Rebhorn
Director: Shawn Levy
Scriptwriters: Shawn Levy, Leslie Bohern and John Gatins
Composer: Danny Elfman
Rating: PG 13 for violence and brief language
Running Length: 127 minutes
IMAX and regular screen
Oh, my, another boxing film, but this one stars Hugh Jackman, Kevin Durand, and Dakota Goyo on the male side, with Evangeline Lilly on the feminine side, as the owner of a boxing training gym. Remember Durand and Lilly from television’s “Lost,” where he was the bad guy (same here) and she was the good gal (same here.)
In this movie, adapted from a short story, the future has robots boxing instead of men. These metallic behemoths have persona and body armor like a tank. Problem is, they are disposable, too, and they have no emotion. Or do they? Hmm. We begin with Charlie (Hugh Jackman, whose accent wavers a bit from time to time) as the fly-by-night owner of various boxing robots, who is one step ahead of money lenders, namely Ricky (Durand). Charlie’s friends who have a soft spot for him are Bailey (Lilly) and Finn (Anthony Mackie.) Enter Charlie’s son, Max (Dakota Goyo from “Thor”) whose Mom passed away. Max has to live with Charlie through the summer before staying with his aunt and uncle (Hope Davis and James Rebhorn.) The kid is a robot/magnet and soon finds (in the middle of a storm) and old robot and rebuilds it. It is called Atom and you know that life will not be the same for Charlie and Max, who is wise beyond his years. Staying one step ahead of the law and creditors, they take Atom into the ring to win smaller matches, and with Charlie’s help programming his own boxing moves into Atom, they head for the Big Time and lots of money. Maybe.
There is humor in Real Steel both from the robot, the groupies and some of the situations they get into. What is serious is that you know Charlie will have to take responsibility for being a parent and quit running away from life. In that, he is a robot inside and as Atom is re-programmed, Charlie starts to be re-programmed, too. There is an earthiness to “Real Steel,” the only clean and polished items are the robots in the ring, otherwise, this is a dirt-filled, sometimes gloomy world where people scrape by making a living, life is lived sleeping in a truck and fast food is luxury, indeed. You may never eat another burrito.
For fans, Hugh Jackman gets to take off his shirt, Evangeline Lilly wears shorts and Kevin Durand could toss a truck around. It is also a version of “Rocky,” only the under-dog is metal and his big opponent is not from Russia, but from the Orient with owners who play him like a video game. It is man vs. man right behind their machines and the crowd cheers all the way. A left hook is a left hook no matter what country.
Copyright 2011 Marie Asner