Real Steel

real steel robot boxing hugh jackman evangeline lilly
Evangeline Lilly and Hugh Jackman in 'Real Steel.'

The year is 2020, and the world of Real Steel is ruled by Michael Bay. I'm only half-joking. Boxing is illegal and audiences pay up to watch robots turn each other into scrap metal. It's Transformers Live! To soften the horror of bot-boxing in a Bay world, the PG-13 Real Steel – based on a waytougher short story by Richard Matheson – offers a human angle. Hugh Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, an ex-boxer reduced to hustling bot matches. He sucks at it. He also sucks at fatherhood, having abandoned his son, Max (Dakota Goyo). Now Max's mom has died, and the kid-hating Charlie inherits an 11-year-old he can't wait to dump. Can s.o.b. Charlie learn to love his son? Ya think? Jackman gets a fair amount of screen time to play a total dick, and he's damn good at it. Director Shawn Levy, whose box-office hits give critics meltdowns (Cheaper By the Dozen, The Pink Panther, both Night at the Museum movies), puts frisky energy into the fights, especially when Charlie and son take a junk-pile robot named Atom and build him into a contender. Atom learns his moves by shadowboxing Charlie and Max. Sugar Ray Leonard helped with the motion-capture, and it shows. Good stuff. But the tear-jerking in Real Steel is as shameless as its product placement. We're being hustled.

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