REAL STEEL - Rocky Played by a Robot
REAL STEEL (sci-fi family drama)
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Kevin Durand, Anthony Mackie, Hope Davis, Phil La Marr, Olga Fonda and James Rebhorn
Director: Shaun Levy
Screenplay by John Gatins
Time: 125 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
THE BIG DEAL in this Disney movie set in the 2020s is robot-boxing. The idea is adapted from Richard Matheson's 1956 short story Steel previously shown as an episode of "The Twilight Zone." Just think of Rocky being played by a robot and you are as close to what Real Steel is about as you can get.
Besides the novelty of Robot Rocky, there is only the usual estranged dad-and-son storyline with a little uncanny romance thrown in. Considering that this is a Disney film, you can expect to have your heartstrings tugged - and other predictable stuff.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is a has-been boxer who now travels the country promoting his tin-can fighter robot. He owes a lot of people money and he finds a way out of his predicament when he gets news that his ex-wife has died in an accident, and he must attend the custody hearing of his son Max (Dakota Goyo, who was last seen in Thor). Charlie practically "sells" his son off to his sister-in-law (Hope Davis) and her filthy-rich hubby (James Rebhorn) for adoption.
For the time being, however, Charlie is stuck with Max who also happens to be a fan of video games and robot boxing. Together, and with the help of Charlie's girlfriend Baily (Evangeline Lilly), they patch up used robots for tournaments. When they come across an obsolete sparing 'bot named Atom, Max sees potential in it as an underdog droid capable of taking on the top robots in the Real Steel matches.
HITS & MISSES: Real Steel holds thrills for boxing fans because the action is as gruelling and crunching as the human matches. Top that up with realistic-looking effects, we even feel for those boxing machines - just as we have felt for droids like R2D2 and C3PO in the Star Wars sagas. Among the human cast, Jackman is in top form as the debt-ridden hustler of a dad who finds a match in his own flesh-and-blood. Indeed, Goyo steals the show as the Dr Prpper-guzzling kid who is highly confident in himself and his abilities. Together, Jackman and Goyo exude fantastic screen chemistry.
Lilly (of TV's Lost) provides the requisite feminine presence as Charlie's long-suffering girlfriend but the relationship poses some disturbing questions for viewers: like, what is a pretty girl like her doing, waiting for a loser like Charlie when she can have any guy she wants? And as can be expected, another winning performance comes from Atom the cute 'junkyard dog' that dances like a butterfly and takes heavy beatings without flinching.
THE LOWDOWN: Another entertaining family treat from Disney.