Perhaps there’s an Occam’s Razor to film criticism, in that the simplest explanation of a film is the best. So when every review for Shawn Levy’s Real Steel mentions that the film is a combination of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots and Rocky, it’s not out of laziness, but rather the fact that there’s no better way to describe this. It’s a run-of-the-mill uplifting sports movie, but with robots involved in all the fisticuffs. Yes, it’s a perfectly goofy concept, but within the confines of what the movie wants to be — a slick boxing film for preteens — it’s quite shrewd, far removed from the disaster porn of Michael Bay’s Transformers. The set-up is nothing new. We’ve got hard-luck Charlie (Hugh Jackman) who’s deep in debt, and his estranged son Max (Dakota Goyo), whose age he can’t remember, who one day shows up on his doorstep when his mother dies. Charlie’s involved in robot boxing, a sport that gains popularity in the none-too-distant future, when society’s bloodlust becomes too intense for mere mortals, and half-ton robots are put in their place. Charlie and Max don’t exactly like each other at first, but find a begrudging mutual interest in robots, something that starts to blossom when Max uncovers Atom, an old bot who’s been wasting away in a scrap yard. The movie, of course, becomes an underdog tale, not just for the washed up Charlie, but Atom, too, as the trio moves their way through underground fights and eventually a shot at the championship. Sure, it’s cheesy, but we’re talking about a fighting robot movie here. Real Steel knows what it is, and, refreshingly, isn’t afraid to be a bit hokey at times. There’s no pretense here. Real Steel is pure fluff, but it’s entertaining, blazing through its 127 minutes, doing exactly what you expect it to and what you want it to.
Director: Shawn Levy
Writer: John Gatins and Richard Mathis
Producer: Shawn Levy, Susan Montford, Don Murphy and Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo, Kevin Durand and Anthony Mackie