Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Real Steel

Real Steel ~ I had seen parts of this one on television a few times and had never gotten to the theaters or had the time to see it all the way through. My bro-in-law insisted I had to see this one, and so lent me a copy. Now I'm kinda pleased he did.

Based on the old Richard Matheson story "Steel," which also inspired a "Twilight Zone" episode back in the day, this version is more of a father-son relationship movie than a 1950s speculative fiction romp, although that's not to say the special effects and science fiction aspects don't take center stage when they're happening.

It's 2027, and robot boxing is a thing, and has been a thing for a while, long enough for there to be has-beens in the game. Has-been boxer and robot boxer controller Charlie Kenton is played by Hugh Jackman, who while on the rodeo circuit trying to make a buck and running from debtors, learns his ex-wife has died and his son Max (Dakota Goyo) needs a guardian. To get back, Charlie makes a deal to watch his son for the summer in exchange for selling his parental rights, and buys a new boxing robot - Noisy Boy. He hopes to make all the money he needs with this robot, but his son insists that half the money is his. Yeah, road trip.

With son in tow, Charlie takes Noisy Boy to the underground robot boxing circuit. A cross between "Robot Wars" (or for those late to the party, "Battlebots"), the WWE, Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots, and Fight Club, Charlie, against his son's protests, takes the main event bout against a robot called Midas, the 'gold-blooded killer, programmed for pain.' Anthony Mackie (the Falcon to all us Marvel fans) is a master fight master and a joy as Charlie takes his medicine like a bitch.

After getting robots of his own destroyed, the kid finds his own, a sparring robot called Atom. More adrenaline pumping robot fights follow from the bottom to the top, a pounding soundtrack and 1980s style training montages included. All through it, the bond and relationship between Charlie and Max become stronger. We all know what's going to happen when the summer's over, but still we're digging the robot fights.

In the end we're treated to a battle with the world champion 'bot Zeus reminiscent of the best of the Rocky fights and don't be surprised if you get a bit misty. Also props to Evangeline Lilly as Jackman's sparring partner, and of course to Hugh and Dakota Goyo for terrific performances. This may have been a predictable drama, but the high spx action and happy ending bring it to another level. Excellent flick, recommended.

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