Real Steel movie poster
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Real Steel movie poster

Real Steel Movie Review

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The glory days of boxing are behind it, in real life and on the silver screen. Modern boxers pale in comparison to the popularity of their predecessors.  Boxing movies continue to be a staple of pop culture, but they reflect on fighters of yesteryear. Boxing is a fading sport, even a faded sport. So it’s only natural to replace those sacks of flesh and bones with fight-to-the-death robots!

Real Steel is a boxing movie set in the future where men no longer fight, having been replaced by mini-Transformers who can take a beating and dish it out, too. Hugh Jackman plays a washed-up former fighter who eyes big dollars but contends beyond his robots’ capabilities, leaving him desperate for cash and tens of thousands of dollars in the red to some unsavory folks. When he’s handed his estranged 11-year-old son, however, he finds opportunity in an old sparring robot – both to realize true success and discover what really matters in life.

Aww.

Real Steel is an odd blend of the prototypical boxing movie and a family drama. Its focus is about a past-his-prime fighter that gets one last chance at glory and makes the best of it – the typical boxing drama formula – and yet it’s also sprinkled with father-son developments and other family-friendly story arcs. The movie never establishes what it wants to be, and ends up stuck in between genres.

The film is relatively entertaining. Jackman and Dakota Goyo, who plays his son Max, have good chemistry together and evoke some laughs as the two spar throughout the story. The movie’s third act is also a lot of fun as their underdog robot Atom takes on bigger and bigger adversaries, culminating in a final bout that is worthy of the boxing genre.

Who knew fighting robots could be such a blast.

Unfortunately, at over two hours long, Real Steel is inconsistently paced and at times boring. Despite its simple premise, the movie has too much going on and director Shawn Levy and screenwriter John Gatins fail to blend the various elements together in a seamless way. The father-son stuff looks like it was dropped into the middle of another movie; lots of time is spent shifting between the conflicting stories.

The third act is noticeably better than the first two, but even then Levy screeches the film to a stop several times to throw some unnecessary family drama at the audience. Still, the final two fights are a lot of fun, despite the fact the fighters don’t have emotion, flesh or blood.

Real Steel is an adequately entertaining movie, but would have benefited from a shorter running time and tighter plotting. It takes a while to get going and is inconsistently paced, but it also exceeds [low] expectations and manages to be exciting when it matters.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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