(M) Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo
Shawn Levy has made something of a career out of making films about deadbeat Dads (Night at the Museum, Date Night) so it’s no surprise his latest film is about a Dad in need of some reconciliation and redemption.
Real Steel is a film that is completely undersold by its trailer. Normally trailers are known for telling the entire story of a film, so you would be forgiven for thinking that Real Steel is about boxing robots.
Sure, it has boxing robots in it but the beating heart of the film is a solid and entertaining film about a Dad reconnecting with a son he didn’t know.
Set in the near future Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is a former boxer now promoter in the cutthroat world of robot boxing. Charlie earns just enough money piecing together scrap bots to get from one underground boxing tournament to the next.
Shortly after his latest disappointment at a town fair, Charlie is informed that an ex-girlfriend has died and their son Max (Dakota Goyo) needs a home. Max stays with Charlie while custody is sorted out and together they build and train a championship contender.
The film also stars Evangeline Lilly as Bailey Tallet, the owner of the boxing gym where her father trained Charlie.
Together, Charlie, Max and Bailey form a family and work together to build a robot that mirrors Charlie’s former prowess in the ring. It’s an unconventional but functional family unit and Charlie and Max form a tentative relationship as Charlie learns to fight, not only in the ring but also for Max and Bailey.
There is a lot of emotion and heart in this film (not evident in the trailer obviously) and its themes of reconciliation and redemption are required viewing for most dads and sons.
The careful tone the film maintains with the burgeoning, mentoring and finally loving relationship between Max and Charlie is what gives it a beating heart among the pulse-pounding bouts of robot boxing.
I found myself so invested in the characters in this film that the fight scenes in the climax had me cheering for the underdog.
Few films this year have packed the emotional punch of Real Steel andJackson and Goyo’s performances are pivotal in helping it rise above its simple but effective premise.