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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Hugh Jackman
Dan Gilroy
John Gatins
Dakota Goyo
Evangeline Lilly
Anthony Mackie
Hope Davis
James Rebhorn
Olga Fonda.
Directors
Shawn Levy.
Screenwriters
Running Time
126 minutes

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Real Steel
Or C-3KO


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Plot
In a time when robots have replaced humans as boxers, former pugilist Charlie Kenton (Jackman) hustles a living sending metal men into the ring to fight. But his hardscrabble existence is upended when he’s re-introduced to 11 year-old Max (Goyo), the son he essentially abandoned after birth. Forced to spend time together, they bond over a surprisingly skilful new robo-discovery…


Review
Real Steel
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Kids love robots. Adults love boxing. Why not stick them together? It’s a maxim that has worked well for the inventors of Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots since 1964, and it’s an idea that director Shawn Levy is clearly hoping will carry into the cinema. Despite success with big‑budget comedies, Levy hasn’t exactly earned a lot of critical respect for his previous output (given that includes the first Pink Panther remake and both Night At The Museum films, it’s not really a huge surprise), so here he’s at least trying to stretch himself, adding family drama to the toolbox and looking to prove that he can offer more than just a lot of farcical gurning.

Fortunately, he has an ace up his sleeve in the shape of Hugh Jackman, who gives a charisma-driven performance as the stubborn Charlie Kenton, a man still holding on to past glories as a lifeline, and scraping a living up and down the quieter highways and byways of America as he searches for quick-cash opportunities that would let him pay off his creditors. Though the script doesn’t exactly give him a lot of depth to work with, it’s at its best when brought to life by Jackman and young Dakota Goyo, who evokes the Kenton spirit in some of Max’s reactions and provides an effective, if occasionally annoyingly precocious, foil for Jackman. Plus there’s Atom, the beaten-up sparring robot they discover in a junkyard that turns out to be more than meets the eye. Though there is occasionally a little too much nodding towards the likes of E. T. (including a blatant product placement on a similar level as Elliot’s use of Reese’s Pieces) as Max in particular works with the seemingly broken-down device, there’s also scope for some heartfelt moments as boy and ’bot bond during training sessions. It’s easy to forget occasionally that Atom is an effect in the quieter moments when it’s simply the two interacting.

Then there’s the looming shadow of Transformers. Sharing an executive producer in Steven Spielberg with the techno toy franchise, Real Steel was always going to be judged against the Bayhem of Optimus and co., even though Levy has insisted that the focus for his film was on the father/son angle. Fortunately, the boxing action doesn’t disappoint, with some satisfying moments as the metal warriors smash, tear and pummel each other. From no-rules scrap fights in the underground league to the shiny, high-tech, high stakes world of the World Robot Boxing championship, the actual bouts are impressively choreographed. And utilising some bleeding-edge performance-capture technology for the hulking fighters pay real dividends. While Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes’ simulated simians beat them to the punch by using the Avatar-style system in the real world, Levy and his team have pulled off solid action, even if it is confined to the boxing ring. If there’s a fault here, it’s the inane chatter of the sports commentators in later scenes, crammed full of nonsense about certain droids being “hard-wired with the will to go on…”

The biggest issue for the director is being the servant of two masters. Splitting his time between the new family unit working itself out and the underdog sports story means that neither quite gets the treatment it deserves. Other plots fare even less well, sinking into easy clichés. That’s particularly glaring whenever Jackman shares the screen with Evangeline Lilly, for while their chemistry is decent, the result is less sparks, more fizzle. And the less said about either Kevin Durand’s good ol’ boy rival or the slinky, wealthy Russian ’bot owner (Olga Fonda) who crops up near the end, the better. In fact, outside of Jackman and Goyo, the attempts to generate some real emotion all fall flat. Danny Elfman’s score lays on the soaring strings and choral work almost to parody levels and Levy lets his past get the better of him when he beats it into you that You Should Be Feeling Awed/Upset/Triumphant Right Now. A little less emphasis on easy tugging of the heartstrings would have worked wonders for the impact of the whole.


Verdict
Rocky with robots? It’s not quite in Balboa’s weight class, but Real Steel at least has some heft. There’s barely a story beat among the beat-downs that you won’t expect, and sometimes the saccharine gets in the way of the spectacle, but on the whole this is enjoyable family entertainment.


Reviewed by James White

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Real Steel
Empire Star Rating

Oh dear. Oh my

I cringed a lot during this movie. I could see how people could enjoy it but just not my kind of movie ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dinkydog at 01:59, 24 February 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Real Steel

Couldn't help but give this a bump in case anyone missed this little corker of a movie. Watched it again on NOWTV with my kids last night and they went crazy for it! loved it! and I enjoyed it all the more on this second viewing! great fun!. Not so much fun when my two boys build a boxing ring out of my couch cushions and started fighting each-other to the death! ... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 09:59, 30 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Real Steel

Enjoyed this, far more than I thought I would. ... More

Posted by UTB at 22:16, 03 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Real Steel

I didn't see the stars there and thought you gave it 1 out of 2 ... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 15:59, 31 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Real Steel

Good, but not great. Pleasent surprise though. I had it pegged as absolute stinker after seeing the trailer. ***1/2 ... More

Posted by film man aidy at 15:51, 31 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Real Steel

L: thedrin What I did find weird was eemed to be hinting at a story line where Atom was conscious which got dropped (the facial similarities between Atom and Wall-E's Eve didn't hurt) e was a moment where Atom was 'looking' in the mirror and you felt they might be going down the sentience route but clearly they decided to keep it simple. It would have added to the drama fightwise a lot more if he'd shown signs of life though.] how much has changed between 2002 and 2011, when... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 20:45, 26 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Real Steel

I caught this on Sky a few weeks back. Much better than I expected. What I did find weird was eemed to be hinting at a story line where Atom was conscious which got dropped (the facial similarities between Atom and Wall-E's Eve didn't hurt) how much has changed between 2002 and 2011, when the film came out, and that's how much change there should be between 2011 and 2020. With the allowance that there are fighting robots, of course. I think it's a fair representation. echnology advan... More

Posted by thedrin at 18:24, 25 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Real Steel

Look at how much has changed between 2002 and 2011, when the film came out, and that's how much change there should be between 2011 and 2020. With the allowance that there are fighting robots, of course. I think it's a fair representation. It's also a cracking little film. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sure, it's not a big hitter but, like its mechanical star, it gets it right where it counts. ... More

Posted by homersimpson_esq at 17:04, 25 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Real Steel

The cars all look the same, the lorry he drives about in looks older than vehicles you'd see today. That said I've just checked what year it's set in and it's 2020 so that's not exactly decades into the future ... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 14:59, 24 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Real Steel

L: Fluke Skywalker It is a bit weird we're looking at the future and everything looks exactly the same save for the robots and mobile phones - definite concessions to the budget there. ntrigued by this. I haven't seen the film so I can't comment, but what else would be futuristic in your opinion? ... More

Posted by UTB at 14:44, 24 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Real Steel

This is a solid 6/10 with most of those points going to the robots as not only are they pretty cool but the fights are entertaining and by the end quite stirring. You definitely get the 'Rocky' vibe at times as well. Jackman doesn't really do a great deal but his growing relationship with his son is believable - save for a scene where the kid grabs the mic in the ring and starts challenging the no.1 robot to a fight he's not particularly annoying either. It is a bit weird we're look... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 14:11, 24 August 2012 | Report This Post


Real Steel

The Rock ’Em Sock ’Em movie features probably the most annoying kid in films, as well as a falty-heart script. However, it makes for good family entertainment largely due to Hugh Jackman and some fun (and techinally impressive) robot action sequences. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by norgizfox at 03:48, 24 June 2012 | Report This Post


Real Steel not Terrible

Good not great movie. Jackman is good as always. Better than expected, especially the CGI. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:19, 23 February 2012 | Report This Post


Real Steel not Terrible

Good not great movie. Jackman is good as always. Better than expected, especially the CGI. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:19, 23 February 2012 | Report This Post


Shite

*SPOILERS* When Dakota Goyo takes the announcers mike to start screaming at the crowd I had seen enough. I understand family film approaches, but this is dire. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JAYDAK1SS at 17:13, 24 January 2012 | Report This Post


BORING AND CRINGEWORTHY

I didn't expect much from this but Iwas hoping to see some great Robo-Rocky action. Instead I got an hour and forty mins of dull, emotionless father-son story and only about 20 mins of action. And what the hell was that Russian accent? I thought John Malcovich's awful Russian accent in Rounders was impossible to beat, but this Olga Fonda has managed it. Whoever cast her must have been bribed or something. Boring, predictable, surprisingly unoriginal and dull. Yet another big budget Hollywood FAI... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Gram Woods at 23:03, 03 January 2012 | Report This Post


big success

i love this film as its light fun and easy to watch jackman does such a great job in the lead roll and towards the end i have to admit it felt like i was trading blows instead of atom totally worth watching and easily one of my favourite films this year ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by chrisharvey1551 at 01:52, 01 December 2011 | Report This Post


one of the most fun movies i,ve seen this year. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jeffamania at 20:18, 27 November 2011 | Report This Post


RE:

**SPOILERS WARNING**   Rocky / Over The Top with robots - completely agree with that comparison.   Doesn't necessarily make it a bad film and indeed considering that evening's trip to the cinema was fuelled by the onset of boredom I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I was going to.   The success of a near reality "what if" story relies on the credibility of the concept. Here we are expected to believe that a near future technological breakthrough in robot manu... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by REALLYMAD at 16:24, 17 November 2011 | Report This Post


The film surprised me because I didn't expect to get so emotionally involved with the characters and I was willing Atom to win the fight against Zeus. Hugh Jackman played his role perfectly I don't think anyone could have done it better. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Everest95 at 23:43, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Jackman’s a jackass but the boy and his ‘bot got real heart.

If you're a parent (a dad especially) and you took your child (son especially) to see The Transformers movies but you don't go to take them to see this film then you are a BAD DAD! REAL STEEL has all the charm and wow factor that a film about a kid and his robot/s should have. The Transformers films were an assault on the eyes, ears and, at times, the morality of everyone who saw it, esp younger generation. This film has made it okay to admit that films about fighting robots ARE co... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JediBobster at 15:55, 27 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Jackman’s a jackass but the boy and his ‘bot got real heart.

Basically a combination of Rocky, The Champ and I suppose The Iron Giant.  Therefore there's hardly any originality, and at times it's extremely corny, but what the hell, I like a bit of corn sometimes.  The robot battles are ferocious and at times it did really get me going, making me want to cheer at times. Far better than expected. 7.5/10 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 22:03, 26 October 2011 | Report This Post


Jackman’s a jackass but the boy and his ‘bot got real heart.

Not bad http://splittingreels.blogspot.com/2011/10/real-steel-s hawn-levy-2011-review.html ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by pturner1010 at 14:16, 25 October 2011 | Report This Post


Enjoyable if predictable

Former reviews have this pretty well wrapped up. Enjoyable , good CGI, cheesy, the underdog robot an all too obvious metaphor for the father that is reluctant to fight. And thankfully the starter has an outcome that doesn't require writing to the RSPCA. Quite male centric in a dad who listens to Radio 2 and his 9 year old son type of way. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by filmsunlimited at 15:39, 23 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Real Steel

Real Steel is a lot of fun. Albeit very, very cheesey. Jackman was likeable, the kid wasn't too obnoxious and the effects were superb. I did have one fairly major issue with it though. The bullfight at the start really didn't sit right with me it was just really uncomfortable seeing an animal being attacked by a huge machine in front of a cheering crowd. I suppose that the fact that the bull wins is meant to mitigate the cruelty of it  but it just left a nasty taste in my mouth and threate... More

Posted by Scruffybobby at 18:38, 22 October 2011 | Report This Post


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