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Real Steel (2011)

DVD Cover (Walt Disney Studios)
Genres:
Boxing, Drama, Sci-Fi Action, Science Fiction, Sports Drama
Director:
Shawn Levy Shawn Levy
Starring:
Hugh Jackman Hugh Jackman
Dakota Goyo Dakota Goyo
Evangeline Lilly Evangeline Lilly
Anthony Mackie Anthony Mackie
Kevin Durand Kevin Durand

7.1 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Crispy
Added: May 07, 2013
Lately I've been watching Syfy's newest reality series, Robot Combat League. It's basically Rock'em Sock'em Robots with actual eight-foot robots, and while it's a fun little concept, the robots are obviously a little clunky. I do enjoy the show, but it does make me wonder what would happen if the technology was a little more advanced. Just my luck that the whole concept was likely inspired by just such a movie.

Once upon a time, Charlie Kenton was one of the best boxers in the world. These days however, things aren't so bright. You see, when the sport switched over from human combatants to giant robots, he was lost in the shuffle. Now he's in debt with more than a handful of vicious loan sharks, and travels around to county fairs, pitting his bot against various animals trying to make a buck. It's certainly not a life for kids, so when he finds out his ex has passed and he's suddenly found himself with custody of his estranged son, Max, he's not exactly happy about it. Fortunately for the dirtbag, the boy's aunt wants custody of him, but her super-rich husband isn't too keen on missing out on the summer's Italian vacation they had planned. The conniving Charlie naturally sees things as the perfect opportunity to score a big buck . After claiming he wants a chance to bond with Max for the summer, he tries to pawn him off on a friend of his, but gets conned by his equally conniving son into taking him along. While searching through a junkyard for salvage parts, Max stumbles upon an older sparring bot. Charlie is convinced it's useless, but his son isn't taking no for an answer. He drags it home, names it Atom and convinces his father to train it with his old boxing skills. As Atom's wins starts mounting, the rift between father and son begins to mend as well.

All the Rock'em Sock'em Robots: The Movie joke have been made, so let's just move forward shall we. The truth is, the movie is a lot better than it has any right to be. Charlie's plight was interesting enough all on it's own, and things get better once Atom takes the ring. Hell, I'm sure many reviewers had their negative reviews half-written before even firing the flick up, then found themselves cursing and starting from scratch. Real Steel is based off the story Steel by Richard Matheson, which I haven't read. However, I'm thinking the movie took a lot more cues from the Rocky series than anything else. Hell, even the tactics used in the final fight were taken from one of the sequels. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing; there was still enough original material to make it worthwhile. Between Atom's rise to fame and the subsequent growth between Charlie and Max, things move along at a very nice pace, and the banter between the pair was pretty realistic. Plus, the fights use a very nice style: mostly human movements, with a few robotic techniques on top of the base.

If there's anything I would have changed with the movie, it's that there's too much focus on Charlie and Max. Yeah yeah, I know the focus was supposed to be on the reconciliation of their relationship, and yes the two had an incredibly strong and realistic chemistry between the two, but when you market a movie about giant robots beating the shit out of each other, you kind of draw a different target audience than people who want to see this more dramatic angle. I'm obviously not saying it should have dropped the angle completely, but I would have liked to see the fights take up more of the running time. I'd say it should be the type of movie that caters to the lowest common denominator, but that's taking away a lot of credit from the work put into this movie. For starters, the robots look amazing. A combination of the CGI and actual robots, the two techniques blended beautifully. Hell, the movie was even nominated for an Oscar for Best Special Effects. Plus, they brought on boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard himself to coach the boxing scenes. Maybe I thought this should have been a dumbed-down action affair, but the filmmakers certainly had much higher hopes for it, and the extra effort did pay off.

Real Steel is another one of those movies that's I figured would be trashed by critics with a load of criticisms that should have been blatantly obvious from the very first trailer. Surprisingly it's actually gotten some high marks (ironically for Charlie and Max's relationship. Which was my sole complaint; what the fuck do I know?). Well, here's another one. It has some problems, but it gave me what I was looking for and then some. What more did anyone really expect? 6.5/10.
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