Sunday, October 30, 2011

Real Steel

Reel Steel looks a lot like The Champ, both the Wallace Beery and Jon Voight versions about a fighter who struggles in a relationship with his son. Both versions had the power to manipulate your feelings, make you care about the father and his kid. You knew what was going to happen, you knew you were being manipulated. Still you cared. Which is what made both movies work.

Reel Steel works, too. I knew what every fight was going to look like. There were some surprises, but not many, in this modern version of the fighter story, where robots take the place, and punishment, of human fighters. But in the end, I knew pretty much every punch, every fight's end. But still it didn't matter. I felt every emotional blow. And that's because every scene, every actor, gets every note just right.

The movie is set in the near future when we meet Charlie, a struggling promoter who owes up to his elbows in past-due loans just to stay in business. Suddenly he finds out his ex-wife has died and left him an 11-year-old son whom he wants nothing to do with. His wife's sister wants the kid, but the rich husband wants to pay Charlie to take Max just for the summer so that they can take one last expensive vacation in Europe. To Charlie's surprise, Max has quite a bit of knowledge about the fighting robots, and the two team up with their boxing bot in the ring.

I have no idea where they found young Dakota Goyo, who plays Max as a bitter but curious pre-teen with everything to gain and lose, all in a fight with his father, but he's absolutely brilliant. And this is the most vulnerable I've seen Hugh Jackman since Wolverine. The two together are a great team.

I highly recommend Real Steel for its emotional impact, its stunning effects with the robots, and some really thrilling fight scenes. Real Steel is the real deal.

Thumb's up.


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