MFR Rating: ★ ★
Robots hitting each other is big business. The Transformers series has proved the profitability of metal collisions and characters about as concrete as the computer generated creations they’re acting opposite.
Starring Hugh Jackman, trying too hard with a New York accent and never remotely likeable, Real Steal takes the formula of a boxing movie and tries to make it family friendly, robotic and filled with product placement.
Jackman plays Charlie, a good for nothing robot boxer who finds himself temporarily in the custody of Max (Dakota Goyo), his cute 11 year old son whose mum has just died. Having abandoned his son all his life, Charlie reluctantly takes Max onboard and inevitably they become a robot boxing super team leading to a bit of family reconciliation. For an 11 year old whose just lost his mother, Max is surprisingly chirpy. Almost sickly chirpy.
Supporting roles from Lost alumini Evangeline Lilly and Kevin Durand are passable but neither actor gets a lot to do. The really bad stuff comes from the (foreign) owners of the rival robot, Zeus. Although just a small role, both actors are pretty cringeworthy in their performances.
To be fair, Dakota Goyo (what a name) does a good job for such a young actor acting opposite so much CGI, even if he eerily resembles the Phantom Menace era Anakain Skywalker, both in appearance and performance although he’s certainly a more talented young actor. In fact, the film reminds me a lot of a prolonged version of Episode One’s inane ‘pod-racing’ storyline, except with fighting robots. Lots of dull bartering, gambling and a feel-good cute little kid defying the odds in CGI pumped action sequences. And it’s also guaranteed to flog one or two toys and video games which is a convenient little bonus.
The CGI sequences are undoubtedly expensive, technically marvelous but ultimately incredibly tedious. There’s just no substance to fake metal hitting fake metal. It soulless and painless. At over two hours it could have done with a proper good edit. To be fair, the whole thing could have been worse. For a boxing robot movie, it’s exactly what you’ll expect providing your expectations have been lowered accordingly.
Real Steel is out on 14th October in the UK and out now in the US. Running time: 127 mins. Certificate 12A (UK).
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Review by David Rank