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Real Steel


Stars: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Hope Davis, Anthony Mackie, James Rebhorn, Kevin Durand

Director: Shawn Levy

It’s the near future.

Very near, in fact since the only major difference on offer is that human pugilists have been replaced by 8-foot steel robots that slug the sparks out of each other in the ring. Which leaves washed up former boxer Jackman forced to eke out a precarious living promoting bouts between his clanking robot in low end venues. So far, so depressing for Jackman. But things become even more complicated when his 11-year-old son Goyo, whom he abandoned at birth, unexpectedly re-enters his life. Together they set out to rebuild a scrap-heap robot and head for the big time…

Nobody, least of all, I imagine, screenwriter John Gatins, would claim massive innovation for the two basic themes. The familiar first theme - estranged father-and-son Jackman and Goyo bond emotionally and Jackman recovers his self-esteem - comes over effectively, thanks to Jackman taking his role seriously and a telling performance from Goyo. The equally familiar second storyline has, aptly, been described by famed American chat show host Jay Leno as “Rocky with robots”. Reportedly the climactic slugfest between the underdogs’ revamped wrecked robot and a terrifying giant two-headed automation is inspired by the ultimate fistfight in Rocky V. That seems to work.

That said, the screenplay is based on the 1956 short story by Richard (‘The Incredible Shrinking Man’, ‘I am Legend’) Matheson that ended up as the episode ‘Steel’ in TV’s ‘The Twilight Zone’. And Shawn Levy, aided by effective special effects that created the robots and allow them to demonstrate their metal mettle in noisy spark-creating style, creates a rousing blend of science fiction and action and human drama that doesn’t deliver anything particularly new but does it entertainingly enough, with Jackman and Goyo holding their own well as mere flesh-and-blood characters.

Alan Frank

USA 2011. UK Distributor: Walt Disney. Colour by deluxe.
127 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 13 Oct 2011