[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B006DVUULE][/pullquote] Sylvester Stallone has a lot to answer for. His most famous creation, Rocky, has become the archetypal narrative for the majority of sports films ever since its release in 1976. Now whenever Hollywood wants a vehicle for one of their testosterone-filled leading men, they dust of Rocky‘s underdog tale and just change the setting and in some cases the sport. This year already has seen the release of Warrior with Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton that mines the story, but now we have the Hugh Jackman-starring Real Steel.
Set in the near future, Real Steel follows Charlie Kenton (Jackman), a former boxer, want away father and failing controller of giant fighting robots. When the mother of his child Max, (Dakota Goyo) is killed, he sees the opportunity to make some money from the kid’s wealthy aunt and uncle. Agreeing to retain custody over the summer, the two begin touring the country together trying to find fights for their robot without much success. Their luck changes upon the discovery of a robot called Atom in a scrap yard.
The plot is predictable and clichÃ©d with a baggy introduction and a rushed middle portion. The acting is passable, with Jackman and Evangeline Lilly impressing in their two-dimensional characters, but any good work by them is removed by the over-the-top annoying acting of young star Goyo. One scene in particular when he’s playing up to the crowd and trying to get a title shot makes him seem like an unhinged lunatic. It was so terrifying that the audience could easily think that the success had gone to his head. It’s a good thing then, that the special effects and overall atmosphere are perfectly played with interesting advances in technology included, but never bragged about.
The action, while trite, still fundamentally engages the audience, playing on the same emotions as Rocky and Warrior. The truth is, we all love an underdog story, and it is this element that is Real Steel’s greatest strength. Some more brutal editing and less emphasis on the relationship between father and son would’ve worked better, but the snappy dialogue between the main characters is generally enjoyable.