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3 out of 5 stars
Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Right now, across the globe, a legion of film critics is furiously trying to figure out the best way to fuse the words ‘robot’ and ‘Rocky’: will it be ‘Rockybot’? ‘Robocky’? ‘Steelvester Steelone’? Yes, the underdog boxing story gets a cybernetic twist with ‘Real Steel’, a loud, silly, shamefully enjoyable rust-to-riches tale of the futuristic Worldwide Robot Boxing league, where 20-foot metal behemoths slug it out to the delight of baying, human crowds. When we first meet rough diamond Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), he’s down on his luck. His latest prize robot has just been flattened by a rampaging bull, there are loan sharks after his head and what’s worse, he’s been tasked with taking care of the son he never wanted: tousle-headed ten-year-old Max (Dakota Goyo). Of course, it’s not long before this mismatched pair find a discarded, outmoded Gen 2 robot in a trash pile, clean him up, train him and take him back out on the road...
As the likes of ‘Night at the Museum’ proved, originality is not one of director Shawn Levy’s big strengths: if you’ve seen ‘Rocky’, ‘Lassie’, ‘Kramer vs Kramer’ and ‘Transformers’, you’ve seen ‘Real Steel’. But there’s nothing wrong with an old story if it’s well told, and ‘Real Steel’ is both smart and slick, spicing up its familiar storyline with likeable characters, thunderous action sequences and a nice line in breezy, country-fried shitkicker humour. Jackman is pure roughneck charm in the lead, and his young foil, Goyo, walks the fine line between slappably cocky and lovably irreverent with absolute confidence. The result is a film which, like its pugilistic protagonists, is big, noisy, unsubtle and a little rusty around the edges. But it’s also satisfyingly sturdy and no-nonsense, a multiplex monster smartly constructed from tried-and-trusted parts.