Do you remember that old Sylvester Stallone movie Over the Top, the one where he plays an arm-wrestling truck driver who takes a kid on the road with him? Real Steel is nothing more than a bad rip of Over the Top where arm wrestling is replaced with CG boxing robots.
In the future, the bloody violence of mixed martial arts causes boxing to lose its following. Fans want more blood and gore than boxing has to offer, so boxers are replaced by remote controlled robots who box to the death for them. Where you could never see dismembering or decapitations in the boxing of old, you could now see robots beat one another to oil-covered pieces of scrap metal.
Hugh Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, a rising boxer left in the dust by the robotic replacements. Trying to get his “15 minutes of fame,” Kenton has been proxy boxing robots ever since – but not very successfully. After losing his last bot to a bull fight – yes, the movie opens with a robot fighting and losing to a bull – Charlie’s life is in the dumps. As if his failure isn’t enough, he owes huge sums of money due to bad bets and the passing of his ex-wife has given him custody of his mouthy estranged son Max. But it’s Max who ends up getting Charlie back into the game.
While stealing robotic remains from a junkyard during a father and son midnight outing, Max finds an intact first generation sparring bot that he believes has the potential of beating every technologically advanced robot out there. With nothing to lose, Charlie takes Max on the road to various underground fight-clud style boxing tournaments.
A major problem with this lazy screenplay is that it doesn’t feature a villain. Sure, there’s a super bot they must fight in the end, but there’s no gravity to it. The owners of the super bot are not bad people and the robots themselves do not have artificial intelligence. It’s not like you’re worried about the machine getting torn to pieces – it has no feelings, emotion or even control. It’s a remote controlled toy, so who cares if it gets crushed or not?
The characters themselves aren’t even worth rooting for. Charlie is a selfish bad businessman, a drunk and a terrible father. He tries selling his kid for cash, so who cares what happens to him? And Max is a mouthy little bastard with an attitude problem. I don’t like prick kids and won’t let mine mouth off, so why would I want to watch one on the big screen for 127 minutes?
From the trailers of Real Steel, I expected a movie filled with robot punch-out – but there’s hardly any of that. This movie is almost non-stop talking. None of the characters ever shut their mouths and let the robots fight, which makes it extremely boring. Real Steel drags its feet through each of the 127 minutes. The moment that I truly checked-out of Real Steel is about halfway through the movie when Max puts his bot in a “shadow mode” (that makes him mirror Max’s actions), then the two begin dancing to hip hop.
It feels like the only goal that terrible filmmaker Shawn Levy had with Real Steel was to make is as much of a Michael Bay movie as possible – not only in the use of lens flares, but in product placement and stupidity as well. Certain audiences out there will enjoy Real Steel, but it’s not a movie that anybody is going to remember or talk about an hour after seeing it. It’s utterly boring and equally unforgettable, a real waste of a moviegoing experience.
Photo credit: Buena Vista