REAL STEEL (Shawn Levy, 2011)
REAL STEEL is a family film in the truest sense of the word- an enjoyable, suspenseful action drama with an engaging father-son relationship in the center. Moreover, it has the energy and the hysteria of the greatest boxing movies, and placing it in a futuristic world but maintaining a present setting only adds to the film's beauty.
Based in part to the Richard Matheson short story "Steel" which sets the story in the year 2156, REAL STEEL adjusts the timeline a little bit closer to reality, in the year 2020 where locations appear normal as it would today, only that the robots have replaced humans for sport. Jackman, who takes a break from the X-MEN films, is lean and still gritty as a washed out boxer roaming the country with a washed out robot.
The story gets interesting with the arrival of his estranged son Max (a starmaking performance for Canadian young actor Dakota Goyo), whom he gets to spend a brief time with, following the death of Max's mother, who is Jackman's character Charlie's ex-girlfriend. Max proves to be arrogant and assertive, finally landing a match to Charlie's carefree and reckless lifestyle and philosophy in life, yet his curiosity as a child and his vulnerability is what propels the story forward. Goyo is such a talented actor for his age, and Jackman seems believable enough as a father that their tandem sparks an instant connection with the viewer and sustains an emotional grip. You eventually want to be along for the ride.
Patterned somewhere along the lines of most sports movies, where we see the rise and fall of a hero, and the eventual disappointment and redemption from the eyes of those around the hero, REAL STEEL still manages to be compelling. The action sequences are blow by blow and visceral, and there is a genuine connection between Max, Charlie, and their robot Atom by way of all being underdogs, one way or another. And everyone loves an underdog tale.