Real Steel | Film Reviews | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Real Steel 

Rocky sock-'em robots

Pin It
Favorite
Real Steel
  • Real Steel

Real Steel might look from promotional materials like it’s simple genre mayhem, but in a weird way it’s almost experimental cinema. The experiment is this: How many crowd-pleasing formulas can you stuff into one narrative and still have it work on some basic level?

The answer: Surprisingly many. Set in a near-future America, it casts Hugh Jackman as Charlie Kenton, a one-time boxer rendered obsolete by the development of mechanical pugilists to allow for larger-scale mayhem. Now reduced to barnstorming through county fairs and underground gyms as a trainer of whatever robot he can patch together, he lands an unexpected tag-along in Max (Dakota Goyo), the 11-year-old son he barely knows. But Max could be his ticket to the big-time when they salvage an obsolete robot fighter called Atom and begin a climb through the ranks.

If you’re scoring at home, that makes Real Steel at minimum a combination of Surly Loner Who Learns to Love By Caring for a Child, Underdog Sports Drama and Boy and His Dog, the latter as Max bonds with Atom as a sort of surrogate for Charlie. Tender moments fight for time with winning-streak montages, the big showdown between Atom and the electronic Mike Tyson called Zeus doubling as cathartic emotional connection. Director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) does everything except slice an onion under your nose to try to get the tears flowing.

And it’s a lively ride almost in spite of so much calculation. The rock’em, sock’em battles are energetically staged, and Goyo has some terrific moments as counterpoint to Jackman’s inveterate loser. If Levy and his screenwriters had eased up on the saccharine just a touch, the raucous fun might have had more of chance to shine through. As it stands, it’s still a more satisfying big-robots-beat-the-crap-out-of-one-another adventure than any given Transformers—and a boy and his dad get to share a big hug, to boot.

REAL STEEL

3_stars.gif

Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly
Rated PG-13

Twitter: @ScottRenshaw

Pin It
Favorite

Speaking of , ,

More by Scott Renshaw

Latest in Film Reviews

  • Houses Divided

    Two new films highlight a politically fractured America.
    • Oct 17, 2018
  • Giant Leap

    Neil Armstrong's private world drives the biopic First Man.
    • Oct 10, 2018
  • Everything Old Is New Again

    A fresh take on A Star Is Born both elevates and hinders it.
    • Oct 3, 2018
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Kid Stuff

    A lovely child performance anchors the satisfying family drama of Gifted.
    • Apr 12, 2017
  • If You're Going to San Francisco

    Fifty years on, Monterey Pop captures something that was more than a musical moment.
    • Jun 14, 2017

© 2018 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation