I’m still not sure which poor life decisions led to me finding myself at 36 years of age, sitting in a movie theatre watching a robot fight a cow. But whatever they were, it’s obviously time to rethink them.
I’m also not sure how a robot fighting a cow would not be awesome, or, at the very least, mildly amusing. But such is the quandary of Real Steel, yet another film illustrating just how dull it can be watching giant computer-generated androids pounding the crap out of each other.
Set in an unspecified future time when robot boxing is the most popular sport in America, the film stars Hugh Jackman as a grizzled down on his luck ex-fighter who used to be a legend in this game. There’s a great deal of blather about skill, heart, training and what have you, but this basically just looks like a hardware-heavy Xbox, with folks using remote controls to make enormous piles of metal slug one another in the face.
Washed up on the rodeo circuit (hence that unfortunate business with the cow) Jackman suddenly gets stuck with custody of his estranged 11-year-old son. (Dakota Goyo, a graduate from the Jake Lloyd School Of Child Acting.) We can tell Jackman’s a louse because he doesn’t shave, owes everybody money and wakes up one morning with precisely two empty bottles of beer lying on the floor near his bed. But would you be shocked if I told you that the kid helps him turn things around and finally become a decent dad?
The two happen upon a broken old sparring bot in a scrapyard—but would you know it, this hunk of junk turns out to have more heart than any robot fighter anybody has ever seen! Can the underdog get a shot at the title? More importantly, will there be a single scene in this movie that isn’t agonizingly, groaningly predictable from before the opening credits?
Directed by Shawn Levy, who typically makes terrible family films that I do not go to see, Real Steel leans heavily on a charisma that Jackman does not possess. His attempt at “roguishly charming” just reads as “smirking asshole,” leaving you to pass the egregious 126 minute running time counting product placements (they are legion) and entire scenes lifted from Rocky IV.
All this swiping from Stallone, and they couldn’t find room for a cameo by Paulie’s birthday robot?