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Real Steel - Film Review By A.D.Harris

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(taken from theadamharris.com)

What truly shows the steel that a man is made of? Is it his successes in his career, or is it the successes in owning up to your past mistakes, in repairing or finding the relationships you have lost. In true Hollywood style, Hugh Jackman shows his real steel as Charlie Kenton when the son he never knew about is dropped onto his doorstep at a point in his life when he is down on his luck.

It’s a story that has been told many a time with varying levels of success and quality, but Real Steel manages to succeed in breathing some new life into the tale. It does this with an intriguing action plot-line that Transformers fans will relish and mixing it into the drama of a father-son relationship being built as well as the personal triumphs along the way.

First things first, Real Steel packs in plenty of cheese and cliché, its plot being predictable for at least ninety percent of its slightly overlong running time. It follows the ABC of screenwriting to the letter, and struggles to push itself close to finding something innovative despite the fact it features fighting robot boxers. It is safe to say that fighting robot boxers is the only element that you haven’t seen before.

Yet there is something about Real Steel that appeals to the heart-strings, that tickles the lump on the back of your throat and works hard to make sure you aren’t disinterested. The main ace up its sleeve is Hugh Jackman. Packing all the charm he has into Charlie, Jackman makes our hero consistently likeable and has you rooting for him throughout; some feet considering how much of a pathetic loser and coward he is at the films beginning. Unable to maintain a relationship, happier to keep himself to himself and push away the people he cares about, Charlie should be despised but Jackman is too good for that. He keeps an edge and sadness to his character that tells you he doesn’t truly mean what he says; he doesn’t want to do the things he does. He just doesn’t know how to do any different anymore. It’s this stellar performance which is the heart and soul of Real Steel, but it is his relationship with his son which drives the plot forward from the second Max enters the fray.

This relationship is the story that Real Steel is primarily telling. It does well to shroud this behind the robot antics which feature heavily, but it is always clear that robots were a way to bring Charlie and Max closer together. Dakota Goyo may not be the most skilled of actors when compared to some of the other strong child performances we have seen this year alone, but he has a decent character to work with and a strong partner in Jackman, and as such Max is mostly a success on the screen and even when he annoys you can manage to look past it.

Visually, Real Steel is the perfect example of making a film look fantastic. All the robot fighting scenes showcase stunning visual effects and director Shawn Levy excels in creating a character in Atom, the robot which Max and Charlie find buried in a scrap heap. When the action is in full swing, the jaw will hit the floor; it’s effortless, grinding and lethal. You will be surprised just how much you are rooting for a piece of metal, even though when compared to the tears for inanimate objects Toy Story 3 managed last summer Real Steel falls short. However when compared to Transformers, this summer’s other robot blockbuster, Real Steel triumphs on every level. It packs more punch, emotion and drama than every moment of Michael Bay’s grinding mess of a film.

There are however some other elements that fail to deliver to the quality you expect. Kevin Durand’s villainous Ricky is paper thin in terms of complexity and abysmal in terms of entertainment. Over the top, boring, stupid and pointless, Ricky offers about as much to the film as a bacon sandwich would in a vegetarian barbeque. Also, plot elements designed to add intrigue end up confusing. Why did they hint at Atom having artificial intelligence in one scene then abandon it completely for the rest of the film? Who decided that a Russian billionaire and a Japanese computer nerd would provide adequate and serious competition come the film’s climax?
Yet for every one of Real Steel’s flaws, it finds a counter balance to keep you on side.

Evangeline Lilly pulls out a strong performance to add a believable, real and powerful subplot for Charlie, and gives the film’s back-story more depth. Then there is the music, which despite playing almost throughout the entire time still keeps your spirit high and your heart rate just above normal.

When all is said and done, and the credits have rolled you will find yourself remembering Real Steel not for its robot crunching and its prevailing against the odds. There’s no denying both elements deliver, and they deliver big, but it is in fact something else that triumphs.
It’s the characters. It’s Charlie and Max, it’s their relationship. It’s the fact that through all the action and clichés which layer the film’s final moments, there is the undeniable fact that you care about the two leading roles.

As a result I have a feeling that the titular real steel isn’t implied literally.

It’s about much, much more than robots.



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