Movie Review: Real Steel

Directed by Shawn Levy

4 Stars

This 2011 movie, directed by Shawn Levy, is set in the year 2020—which might suggest that we, in the real world, are a bit behind—an age in which not much has changed except that rather monstrous and mechanical robots have replaced human boxers in the fighting ring. Boxing is now a sport of “metal smashing metal and steel smashing steel.” Retired boxer Charlie Kenton is an absentee father and underground fighter-bot handler whose playing fast and loose has landed him deep in debt. After practically selling his son to the aunt by his late mother, the boy must spend the summer with Charlie as per the custody deal. Max, a stubborn, mouthy, and profit-oriented 11-year-old with slightly less crook-like tendencies, takes after his father with whom—humorously for us—he butts heads. Amid Charlie’s downward spiral, the two resort to searching a scrapyard for fighter-bot parts, and frightening events precede a discovery, a machine not too powerful but built to take hits. This meagre sparring bot—Atom—incredibly takes them from the junkyard to the leagues.

It’s a fulfilling combination of an engaging contest and Charlie’s character development from crook to father. Still, it isn’t agonizingly happy or unrealistic. It offers a side dish of romance, homage to Charlie's boxing years, and a semblance of a personality in a robot who can’t talk, think or feel.

Real Steel keeps us guessing in terms of Charlie's fatherly efforts and responsibilities after the movie and the deets or emotional implications of the mother’s death. To add to the positives, the soundtrack, consisting of mostly rap, hip-hop, and rock hype music by Eminen, among other artists of the late 90s and 2010s, propels it. Furthermore, Hugh Jackson and young Dakota Goyo have amazing on-screen chemistry playing father and son. For ages 13+, I most definitely recommend it.

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