Ed reviews 'Real Steel' 

click to enlarge Hugh Jackman stars in the robot boxing drama. Submitted photo.
  • Hugh Jackman stars in the robot boxing drama. Submitted photo.

3.5 stars; rated PG-13

Real Steel starts off smart. It opens in rural America, scanning the countryside before moving to a carnival in a small town. The year is 2020, but everything looks about the same as now, except for the boxing robots, and even they look weathered enough to fit in. By adding one unusual element to a familiar landscape, director Shawn Levy and company effectively ease you into their world. Once you've accepted boxing robots as part of the norm, it's easy to swallow what comes with them.

Real Steel is bombastic, cheesy and packed with clichés, but you don't mind ... well, I didn't mind, because boxing is filled with larger-than-life figures, bombastic speechifying, macho posturing and big bad action.

The stylized battling robots are the eye candy, but the main storyline involves a lousy father (Hugh Jackman) and a spunky son (Dakota Goyo). There's also a plucky romantic interest (Evangeline Lilly from Lost), but the heart of the film is in the father-son dynamic. Jackman, looking great, plays a real son of a bitch. Young Goyo is a little too slick, but the two work well together.

That's the thing about Real Steel. You recognize it as a hodgepodge of elements from other sources, a high-calorie Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Rocky with a dollop of The Champ, rolled up in panko Transformers crumbs, then deep-fried and served with comic-book dialogue and blaring music. It's shameless and it's fun. And the filmmakers pulled me into the high-octane hooey with their picturesque Ray Bradbury-ish opening. Pretty impressive.


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What others are saying (8)

Colorado Springs Independent Opening this week Higher Ground, The Ides of March and other film events around town. 10/06/2011
Portland Mercury You Knocked My Block Off! Real Steel neither rocks nor rocks our block off. by Wm. Steven Humphrey 10/06/2011
Creative Loafing Atlanta Hollywood Product: Real Steel Hugh Jackman's rock 'em sock 'em robot has too much mettle by Edward Adams 10/06/2011
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Boise Weekly The Projector: Movies opening Friday, Oct. 7 Werner Herzog reveals ancient cave art; Ryan Gosling reveals his selfish interests to George Clooney; Hugh Jackman reveals his robotic boxing underdog; Henry Hopper reveals his love for Mia Wasikowska. It's all at the movies. by Garrett Horstmeyer 10/07/2011
The Coast Halifax Real heart in Real Steel Robo-boxing movie a knock-out by Matthew Morgan 10/06/2011
Indy Week Fighting robots and Spielberg's daddy issues in Real Steel After a while, the fighting scenes feel like a reward you get every 10 minutes for sitting through the movie's incessantly sappiness. by Craig D. Lindsey 10/05/2011
Tucson Weekly Boxing That Bores 'Reel Steel' is a robot-fighting movie that needs more grease by Bob Grimm 10/13/2011

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