Movie Review: "Real Steel"
Published: Friday, October 7, 2011
Updated: Friday, October 7, 2011 13:10
There is a theory out there that states that there are too many good actors in Hollywood to work exclusively with the good directors. The problem, you see, is that there aren't enough good directors within the Hollywood system anymore, and there are too many quality actors and actresses. This brings us to "Real Steel" starring Hugh Jackman and directed by Shawn Levy, who has brought us "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "Night at the Museum."
The setting is in the near future where "robot fighting" was first invented in 2008. There are two levels of robot fighting: the WWE-like league where live audiences watch the robots fight and an underground league (where the robot promoters and audience watching the fight resemble the characters in the fight clubs of, well, "Fight Club.") Who would have expected anything other than a more violent form of Michael Bay's "Transformers," with perhaps some questionable acting from Hugh Jackman?
So I was very surprised to find myself laughing throughout the movie-and in a good way. The plot was, as you know if you've sat through the trailer, completely ludicrous. A robot promoter named Charlie (Jackman) learns that the mother of his son Max, whom he abandoned when he learned she was pregnant, has died, and that he must appear in court regarding who will take custody of his son. The typical heartfelt story ensues: after deciding that it is best for Max to live with his Aunt Debra, Charlie agrees to watch his son Max for the summer so Aunt Debra and her husband can travel. Charlie and Max quickly bond over their mutual love for robot fighting, but Charlie owes illegal bookies a lot of money and is not a good promoter, constantly seeing his robots pulverized in fights. Max and Charlie then find an A2 robot, an older model named Atom, and try to make some money through fighting it. There begins the underdog story.
But what really saves the movie is the acting. Even with a completely unbelievable script and a story that is based in the near (yet nowhere foreseeable) future, Jackman shows considerable depth as a character. He actually makes you believe he cares about his son, all the while verbally expressing the fact that he doesn't. Dakota Goyo, playing Max, is solid alongside Jackman, and offers most of the punchlines throughout the film, always against towards those who challenge the father-son duo.
Even with the ever-present hip-hop/electronic soundtrack, and an ending which some would call a "Rocky milkshake," this movie could have been much, much worse. The comic relief is humorous sometimes, while sometimes it's so over the top as to be completely ridiculous. And for as much animation as was needed to complete this movie, it seemed as though they shot as much as possible without CGI, possibly to keep it more authentic (The fights seemed real, and I found it interesting while watching the credits that the boxing consultant of the film was Sugar Ray Leonard.)
I think you know whether this one is for you or not. It is the story of a father trying to right his wrongs by letting his son live through him and do what he wants, like drink excessive amounts of Dr. Pepper and fight robots. Is it an all-time classic? No. But for a hard hitting and satisfying time at the movies, "Real Steel" satisfies the Sylvester Stallone in all of us.