"Turning the Heart of the Father"
REAL STEEL is a movie with a big heart. It’s set in a fallen world that plays like ROCKY meets COURAGEOUS.
Charlie is a one-time boxer who now picks up castoff boxing robots to win a few bucks at isolated county fairs. He’s constantly in debt, constantly defeated, and constantly acting before thinking.
Charlie returns to the gym where Bailey, the woman who loves him, has faithfully waited years for him. Bailey is a genius at making robots work. She’s in love with Charlie but also fed up with his self-destructive ways.
Meanwhile, two men notify Charlie that his ex-girlfriend has died, leaving their son alone. Charlie doesn’t want the son, so he makes a deal with the very wealthy husband of his ex-wife’s sister that they can have the son for $100,000. The problem is, they’re about to go on a trip to Italy, so the wealthy husband doesn’t want the son until the end of the summer. The husband offers Charlie half up front, if Charlie doesn’t tell the wealthy husband’s wife.
Charlie is stuck with Max, an 11-year-old, who’s upset his father, Charlie, once abandoned him and now has sold him. Max blackmails Charlie into taking him along with the new robot Charlie’s bought with his newfound money. Max loves video games and is a fan of robot boxing.
Against Max’s advice, Charlie uses the new robot to get into a main bout at an underground boxing arena. The robot gets smashed, however, so Charlie now has to find another castoff robot. While they’re rummaging through a junkyard in the rain, Max almost falls into a huge pit but discovers a castoff robot named Atom. Max spends all night bringing Atom out of the pit. With a little help from Bailey, Max and Charlie discover some unique traits about Atom that make him a sturdy fighter.
[SPOILERS FOLLOW] After winning a few impossible bouts, Max challenges the premier fighting robot in the world, Zeus, to the ultimate battle. A meeting with one of his big debtors forces Charlie to realize he’s no good for Max. He tries to give him back to the in-laws, but Max is disappointed that his father’s not willing to fight for him. Will Charlie do the right thing?
REAL STEEL packs a solid emotional punch. It’s an exciting, funny, surprisingly touching movie with a whole lot of heart. The production quality is terrific. It may remind viewers of BLADE RUNNER or the MAD MAX movies. Although set in 2026, there’s no real timeframe to the story. It’s a future that could be now.
Hugh Jackman has one of the best character arcs in any movie this year, and he does it extremely well. The little boy playing Max, Dakota Goyo, is also terrific. Their story is complemented by quiet scenes that set up the mood perfectly. The music is harsh during the fight scenes, but that fits in with the movie’s underworld scenes.
REAL STEEL is a movie about redemption and second chances, but it isn’t a movie for children. There are intense robot battles, too much gratuitous foul language, and a lot of betting. However, forgiveness triumphs, good triumphs, and many emotional payoffs. REAL STEEL is an absorbing, entertaining movie, but the excessive foul language demands a caution.
(BBB, C, CapCapCap, LLL, VV, N, A, MM) Very strong moral, light redemptive worldview about a father finally accepting responsibility for his son, apologizing for his misbehavior and learning how to do the right thing, with two mentions of prayer, set in a sinful world of machine boxing with betting, some tough language, implied loose women, some weird characters, and violence, plus very strong capitalist content; 27 obscenities (many a** words) and three light exclamatory profanities; lots of strong action violence of robots boxing with oil looking like blood in one scene, robot tackles bull in rodeo ring a couple times but bull eventually destroys robot, goons beat and kick protagonist, goons knock 11-year-old boy down during fight; no sex but some kissing and it’s implied but not discussed that troubled hero has had a son out of wedlock with ex-girlfriend who’s died; brief upper male nudity and midriffs of young women at punk rock setting at abandoned zoo during underground robot boxing contest; alcohol use; no smoking or drug use; and, gambling, cheating, characters sneak into junkyard to steal spare parts, and boxing ring atmosphere during several robot bouts.
Set in a fallen world, REAL STEEL plays like ROCKY meets COURAGEOUS. Charlie’s a one-time boxer who picks up castoff boxing robots to win a few bucks. He’s constantly in debt, constantly defeated, and constantly acting before thinking. Charlie discovers his ex-girlfriend has died, leaving him their 11-year-old son, Max. Charlie doesn’t want Max; so he makes a deal with the very wealthy husband of his ex-wife’s sister that they can have Max for $100,000 when they return from vacationing in Italy. Meanwhile, Charlie learns Max loves robot boxing. Max coaxes Charlie into fixing up a castoff sparring robot named Atom into winning a few impossible bouts. Will Charlie do the right thing and become a father to Max?
REAL STEEL packs a solid emotional punch. It’s exciting, funny, and touching. As Charlie, Hugh Jackman has one of the best character arcs in any movie this year. The little boy playing Max, Dakota Goyo, is also terrific. However, there are many intense scenes and too much gratuitous foul language. REAL STEEL is an entertaining story about redemption and second chances, but it’s gritty enough to require a caution.