Hugh Jackman (left), Dakota Goyo and a bot named Atom don’t pull their punches.
REAL STEEL directed by Shawn Levy, written by John Gatins based on a story by Richard Matheson, with Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly and Kevin Durand. A DreamWorks release. 127 minutes. Opens Friday (October 7). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
Given that it's a story about a father and son who bond over outsized games of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots and is directed by the guy who made the Night At The Museum movies, Real Steel has surprising heart and intelligence.
Some of it comes from the script, which applies the usual boxing-movie arcs of underdogs and aging heroes to a near-future America where robots have replaced human fighters as champions of carnage, but the bulk of the movie's soul is supplied by Hugh Jackman as a boxer-turned-robot-promoter who grudgingly takes charge of the son he barely knows (Dakota Goyo) after the boy's mother dies.
Stuck together for a summer, the two find a junked robot and rebuild it into a contender, bonding along the way. It's utterly predictable, but director Shawn Levy hits his marks with warmth and energy, letting Jackman sell us on the emotions and the effects. And the kid's pretty good, too.