Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: Real Steel

While watching Real Steel, I couldn’t help but feel like director Shawn Levy, and writers John Gatins, Dan Gilroy, and Jeremy Leven were pick pocketing Sylvester Stallone.  Seriously, Real Steel is a complete amalgamation of Rocky and Over the Top with a little bit of Iron Man thrown into the mix.  In fact, I bet that’s how the project was pitched to the higher-ups at DreamWorks.   If Sly isn’t getting a cut of this action, then he absolutely should be.  After all, I spent half the movie waiting for robot Adrian and drunk-robot Paulie to run into the ring.

With that being said, the movie itself is by no means extraordinary, but there are a few things it gets incredibly right that make it a highly entertaining narrative.  Like Rocky, the movie is about a man - down on his luck and cast as an underdog, who is out-classed and out-gunned in every literal and figurative fight that comes his way; ditto for Atom the robot.  As protagonists, this makes Jackman’s Charlie and Atom very easy to root for.

The second thing the movie gets right is that it draws upon the relationship between an estranged father and his son – a near carbon copy of Over the Top’s premise.  The physical and emotional journey undertaken by Jackman and Dakota Goyo’s Max tugs at the proverbial heartstrings and adds an additional layer of likeability to the two principle characters that keeps the viewer engaged.

Jackman and Goyo have genuine chemistry as father and son and it is this dynamic that drives the film.  Kevin Durand, Olga Fonda, and Karl Yune do just enough to add a bit of menace to the proceedings, while Evangeline Lilly serves as the requisite token love interest.  But ultimately, the film rests on Jackman’s shoulders and as is most often the case (X-Men Origins:Wolverine notwithstanding), he delivers.

It’s not a cinematic masterpiece and not a thrill-a-minute action flick.  When you strip away the robots and the hand-to-hand pugilism, what you are left with is a narrative that centers on matters of the heart.  Real Steel is a great rental – a downright feel good movie that is great for any occasion.  And as the closing credits begin to roll, don’t be surprised if you find yourself reaching for the phone just to give your dad a shout (a la the courtroom scene in Big Daddy).

Standout Performance:  Nice job by Dakota Goyo working opposite a seasoned veteran in Jackman.


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