Real Steel (2011)
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Running time: 127 minutes.
You know what was a terrible film? The Fighter. And yes, I know that Christian Bale pulled off some amazing character acting and was almost identical to the real life man he was portraying but other then that, the film was god awful. It was a film that was supposed to be about one man’s struggle between his loyalty to his family and what was best for himself and his career as a boxer; but instead we got a story of one man’s struggle between his loyalty to a bunch of no good douchebags (who’s involvement in his life does not benefit him in the slightest) and what is best for him and his career as a boxer. So it’s a no-brainer decision! He should ditch the jerk family and work with the other people who are actually giving him a good boxing career. But no, he struggles on with his jackass family and we’re all supposed to be thinking: “oh how tear-jerkingly tragic!” when we’re all actually thinking: “you’re an idiot! Ditch the family!” And I suppose everyone was upset by the whole breaking the guy’s hand thing, and I can understand that in the sense that it’s sad when someone is no longer able to do the thing they love anymore. But the problem with this is that A. he gets better anyway and the injury does not impede him at all and B. the “thing that he loves” is being a meat head punching other people in the face for a living. Bottom line, I just didn’t care about anyone in the film. And the fact that Melissa Leo as the annoying, tramp mother got the Best Supporting Actress Oscar over Hailee Steinfeld’s amazing performance in True Grit just adds insult to injury.
But you know what would make a boxing film good? Robots!
Now Showing this week is Real Steel, directed by Shawn Levy. It tells the story of Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), a man struggling to make money and survive in the underground Robot Boxing circuit. After a particularly bad loss leaving him broke, Charlie discovers that his ex-wife has recently passed away and that his son Max (Dakota Goyo) is now left in his custody. Max’s aunt wants to adopt him, so Charlie blackmails her rich husband to pay him fifty thousand dollars to take Max for the summer while they holiday in Europe and then return him to them on their arrival back home. And the cliches start to roll in as Max and Charlie bond over their passion for Robot Boxing and they become closer as father and son. Nawwwwww.
I was genuinely surprised when this turned out to be a good film. I was in it just for the robot matches, which were awesome, but I also got some great characters with developments that were both entertaining and occasionally moving. And the initial role reversal of Charlie being the arrogant and irrational child while Max is more calculated and sensible led to some very entertaining moments, but it also just made sense. I connected with both of them, Charlie for his excitement and enthusiasm to just run in and battle giant robots and Max for his rationality when it came to gambling and picking the fights.
But on to the more fun stuff: the robot fights! I think I now understand how sport fans feel when they watch a football game or something. During the fights, I was often on edge with excitement and anticipation, wolfing down my popcorn due to my nerves and I would silently (I was in a cinema after all!) release all this energy whenever Charlie’s robot KO’ed their opponent. I have never, ever felt like that with any real sports I’ve seen on TV or in person and I think it’s partly due to the lack of a soundtrack in real sports. The musical score really amped up the excitement of the matches as well as the robots just being freakin’ awesome to watch! Excellent use of slow motion and quick cuts, just great.
And the film didn’t end how I expected, which I appreciated. While the story and concept itself is cliched with the whole notion of a father and son hating each other but growing to like each other through a common passion; the conclusion goes in a bit of a different direction. Like I said back when I reviewed Battle: Los Angeles, cliches aren’t bad as long as you don’t half arse them and you throw in a little originality now and then. And this film did.
So anyway, can we just get rid of human boxing already? It’s a terrible sport and replacing the people with robots just makes the action so much more interesting and the amount of people left brain damaged by having giant meat heads punch them repeatedly will go down. Sounds like a win/win to me. Real Steel will definitely not be winning any awards or garnering much critical acclaim; but gee it was a lot of fun. It’s a good film, not a great film and not an excellent film, but a good film. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
See you next time!