Real Steel. StarringHugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Durand. Directed by Shawn Levy. Rated M (Violence). 127 minutes.
Video games alive!
First of all, so many reviews are going to mention The Champ and Rocky, that I will mention them now as well. Plus Rollerball, Death Race and other futuristic sports films that emphasise smashing competitions and fanatical audiences.
This is meant to be a family film and a film about family. There is plenty of noise, plenty of crashing of real steel against real steal, but it is geared to a PG rating.
Hugh Jackman (one of the best actors to convey both charm, geniality and toughness even when he plays an unsympathetic character) is Charley, a wanderer who is reckless and certainly no planner with his life and his work. He goes from carnival to carnival or rodeo or venue for robotic boxing (yes, that is the subject of the film), sometimes winning, often losing, always in debt. He is no good at relationships either, not having seen his wife or son for a decade or more, fickle even with the daughter of a gym owner (Evangeline Lilly) who had been a father-figure to him. This we see in the early scenes.
With his wife’s death, what is he to do with his 11 year old son? Get some cash so that he can be happily cared for by his wife’s sister and her husband (Hope Davis and James Rebhorn). But, Max, the son, wants to go on the road with him, especially when he sees his dad’s new robot fighter, the gigantic Noisy Boy.
For a while, it all goes badly, with Max being more intelligent and practically sensible than his father. Fate intervenes, and Max discovers an old robot which he cleans, fixes, trains and we are firmly in The Champ territory as father and son bond, and in Rocky territory with the build up to a huge fight in a fashionable New York arena, with fashionable and wealthy crowds and media, where Atom takes on the champion, Zeus, and its arrogant inventor and owner. The screenplay mentions David and Goliath. The ending is only 90% predictable. But, it is smiles and tears galore.
Dakota Goya is the name of the young Canadian actor who plays Max. He has had a considerable career already (was the young Thor), but he stands out here, an extraordinarily confident and credible performance by an 11 year old.
Which seems to mean that, while boxing films are not a favourite and, on paper, I might not have liked Real Steel, I realised by the end that I had been caught up and did enjoy it, predictability, steel crunching and pounding and all.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out October 6 2011.