20 October 2011
Real Steel sets a new high for boxing tropes. If you take every Rocky film and roll in Over the Top, you will have some idea of what to expect from Shawn Levy’s latest film. The only difference? This movie features robots. Underdog story? Check. Down on his luck protagonist? Check. Has bad debt from gambling? Check. Bad father? Check. Old love interest? Check. Entertaining anyway? Indeed.
Real Steel opens with Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), a former pro boxer, waking up to a phone call from his bookie about a debt he owes. He then proceeds to take his robot boxer Ambush out to a fair to fight a bull. As it turns out, the fair is run by Ricky (Kevin Durand, Lost), a former boxing champ that once defended his title against Charlie. Charlie and Ricky up the stakes by making a winner-take-all bet that of course Charlie loses when the bull tears Ambush to shreds.
Now, even farther down on his luck, Charlie finds out that his ex-flame has passed away, and that their son Max (Dakota Goyo) needs a place to live. Charlie makes a deal with his former lover’s sister, Debra (Hope Davis), and her husband, Marvin (James Rebhorn), to give them custody for $100,000. Like all good movie deals, there is a catch; Charlie will get $50,000 now while he watches Max while Marvin and Debra go on vacation for the summer. The other half will be paid in August when Max moves in with Marvin and Debra.
With his new found money, Charlie buys a second robot boxer, Noisy Boy and returns to his old training gym run by his previous trainer’s daughter Bailey (Evangeline Lily, Lost, The Hurt Locker) with his son in tow. It turns out that Max is a fan of robot boxing, so Charlie takes him to an underground boxing fight. The fights are run by Finn (Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker), an old friend of Charlie. Despite young Max’s advice, Charlie takes the main fight against local favorite Midas. As you can guess, this fight does not go well for Charlie.
That night, Charlie and Max break into a junkyard to find parts to rebuild a robot. Max comes across Atom, an old training robot built to take abuse without giving out a lot of abuse in return. Now we have an underdog. The rest of the film plays out as cliché as possible. The film culminates in an epic-wannabe boxing match pitting the proverbial David against Goliath.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself despite the lame the premise. As I mentioned, there is nothing new in Real Steel, but it is clear that writer John Gatins is a fan of sports films. He has written a few second-tier sports films like Summer Catch, Hardball, Coach Carter, and Dreamer. The script is not as tight as it could have been since a lot of the prophetic thoughts are nothing more than obvious drivel. The score by Danny Elfman keeps the movie moving nicely. The soundtrack is made up of old songs, Eminem’s “Till I Collapse”, and new Bad Meets Evil’s “Fastlane.”
Despite offering nothing new and hitting every cliché on the way, I still found Real Steel worth the watch. I got to this movie late, but it has already topped the US Box Office two weeks in a row. It will not accomplish the three-pete because Paranormal Activity 3 will be opening this weekend.