Hugh Jackman is Charlie Kenton, a former boxer left behind when the game changed. To keep up with audience demand for more action promoters axed human fighters, replacing them with behemoth thousand pound battling bots. Kenton and his broken down robots barely eke out a living on the circuit, but he sees a chance at making some quick cash when his estranged son reenters his life.
Kenton makes a deal to sell his son for $100,000 to a wealthy relative. The glitch is the adoptive couple will be out of town for the summer, so he’ll have to spend three months with young Max (Dakota Goyo) until he can collect his cash. The kid turns out to be a chip off the old block—stubborn and cocky—but he loves boxing almost as much as Kenton does. When they uncover a robot named Atom at a junkyard they bond in ways neither could have imagined.
“Real Steel” is a strange movie. It’s a father-and-his-son-underdog-romance-redemption-road-trip movie with robots. The funny part is almost all the individual elements work well enough, but when they are slapped together something seems wonky.
The father and son bonding aspect works well enough, although I think if this was real life, child protective services might disagree with me on that one.
The underdog story is predictable, but who doesn’t like a bit of redemption?
The romance and the road trip aspects are played down, but are both important to the story.
Trouble is the movie is so thick with syrup—even the robot Atom has a heart of gold—that it feels like director Shawn Levy has a tendency to let his inner Spielberg get the better of him. By the time little Max says to his estranged father and boxing coach, “I just want you to fight for me… it’s all I’ve ever wanted,” the metaphors are flying thick and fast.
The movie tries to be all things to all potential audiences, and, as a result, feels like less than the sum of its parts.
Sports movies are never about the sports, they’re always about the subtext but here you have boxing robots! That’s something new—they’re not exactly Transformers—but the story insists on ignoring the cool characters—like the robot Zeus, the mechanical Mike Tyson—and focus on the more predictable aspects of the story instead.