Robot Rocky surprisingly riveting
Real Steel (M) ★★★★■
Directors : Shawn Levy ( Night at
Starring : Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Kevin Durand
A hero made from precious mettle THE more you pitch Real Steel to a prospective viewer, the worse it sounds.
It’s a Rocky for robots. That’s right, a boxing picture in which gizmos belt the nuts and bolts out of each other. Not sold? Not surprised. How about a Fight Club for
Transformers, but with all the noisy, toysy, boysy stuff thrown out? And with a ripping story plus a few impressive flourishes of creative flair thrown in for good measure? Still not sold? Fair enough. Those last two Transformers turkeys have left everyone holding a grudge against CGI fighting machines. Nevertheless, I am here to tell you that
Real Steel is much better than it had to be to win over any doubters. It is also one of the most exciting and enjoyable action crowd-pleasers of 2011.
That said, Real Steel does get off to a sluggish start. However, a lot of the material that weighs down the first act is necessary to explain the unusual setting of the picture.
The story takes place at an undisclosed time in the near future. Perhaps a decade or two from now. For reasons never explained, one of the most popular sports is robot boxing.
Charlie Kenton ( Hugh Jackman) is scrounging a living on the fringes, programming and operating robots for bouts at country fairgrounds and seedy city hovels.
A former boxer, Charlie has failed to make a go of the business – mainly because he bets too much on the wrong bots.
In a corny turn of events, Charlie becomes saddled with the temporary care of his estranged 11-year-old son, Max ( Dakota Goyo).
To keep the kid occupied as they move from town to town, Charlie lets Max have his own pet robot to play with.
Max nicknames his rust-bucket buddy ‘‘ Atom’’ and – wouldn’t you know it – it isn’t long before this seemingly obsolete fighting machine is rising through the ranks for a shot at the championship belt.
So far, so cliched, right? Well, yes and no. Although the tensions between Charlie and Max are somewhat forced, there is a clear bond between Jackman and his young co-star that makes their characters click on a truly personal level.
Better still, director Shawn Levy stages the all-important ringside fight sequences with an eye to imposing a personality upon the heroic Atom.
Almost miraculously, you find yourself cheering on the inexpressive and silent robot as he readies himself for a climactic smackdown with Zeus, the meanest, most monstrous heavyweight machine of them of all.
Real Steel should not work on any level, but it succeeds on many thanks to its appealing, unpretentious and deceptively involving approach to its tale.
Now showing Village Cinemas
ROBOT TRAINERS: Evangeline Lilly with Hugh Jackman ( left).