Hugh Jackman burst onto America’s radar with his dedicated portrayal of the highly popular character Wolverine in “X-Men” back in 2000. With his new film, “Real Steel,” things are no different for the actor as we see the commitment to his role and the intensity he brings to the less-than agreeable character Charlie — while still having heart and having fun.
Taken from a 1956 short story and directed by Shawn Levy (“Night at the Museum” and “Date Night”), this film — which is being labeled as the “Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em” movie by people who haven’t seen it — has far more heart and stunning visuals than ever I thought it would.
Charlie Kenton’s (Hugh Jackman) time as a champion boxer is cut short because the lustful crowds crave more violence and brutality. Robots became the new contenders in the ring, so he decides to become a promoter and fight robots. But along the way, he lost his passion for the sport and became robotic himself, just going through the motions.
On the run from everybody he owes money to, and with only a single friend left, Bailey (Evangeline Lilly), Charlie is not in the best place when a kid named Max (Dakota Goyo) shows up. Max claims to be Charlie’s love child from a past failed relationship and he has no choice but to bring the kid along on his hectic lifestyle.
Max discovers a discarded old sparring robot named Atom and pressures Charlie to fight him. When he has his first grudge match in the underworld of illegal robot fights, Max realizes that Atom’s rare shadowing component will let him mimic and learn any movements and Charlie has all of the necessary skills to turn this robot into a champion. With everything against them, can this little robot defeat the odds and rise to greatness?
If you think the concept seems a bit childish or even “we’ve seen this before,” you would be wrong. I went into the film expecting to like the fights and special effects, but I was surprised by how much heart this film has. The emotional storyline and connection between Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goya is pitch-perfect and even through the science fiction aspects of the story at the root if it all is a father/son relationship that is down to Earth and easy to identify with.
Hugh committed whole-heartedly to the role, like usual, but the stand-out performance of the film was by Dakota Goya. I am going to call it now and say that he is the next Haley Joel Osment in how he will shock people with his powerful and emotional performance in this movie. Evangeline Lilly does well connecting with the audience in the short time she is onscreen. Some fun, smaller roles that I enjoyed were performed by Kevin Durand and Anthony Mackie, both of whom have made major impacts in past roles.
The story takes a few twists and turns that are atypical of this genre and that lack of complete predictability made the film more enjoyable for me. The effects and sound design were great, like a mixture of “Transformers” and “Inception.” This is the reason why I would suggest you should see “Real Steel” in your local IMAX Theater if possible. The film seems to be dividing people on whether they want to see it or not, but the bottom line is that this movie is fun, adventurous and full of wonder and amazement. Imagine watching “Rocky” or “E.T.” for the very first time.
Fun little fact: Sugar Ray Leonard — one of the greatest boxer ever — was brought onto the film as an adviser for the boxing matches. It is those small touches of realism that ground this film and help it connect with audiences. Hugh Jackman’s father was also a boxer so he grew up around the sport and had some knowledge before starting the film. DreamWorks and every other company involved have really made a standout film that will entertain audiences of all ages.
So without giving any more details away from the film I will just say go see this film — you might just be surprised at how much you love it.
“Real Steel” is knocking out audiences now and is rated PG-13 for some violence, intense action and brief language.
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