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Vol. LXV, No. 41
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

THE MOMENT OF TRUTH HAS ARRIVED: Father Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman, left) and son Max (Dakota Goya) lead their robot, that is behind them to the left, into the ring as contenders for the World Robot Boxing Federation crown.

Real Steel: Boxing Robots of the Future Help Father and Son Form a Strong Bond

Kam Williams

Boxer and would-be fight promoter Charlie Kenton’s (Hugh Jackman) dreams of winning a world title were dashed when robots replaced human beings in the ring. Broke, and in a losing battle with booze, he is struggling to stay a step ahead of all the impatient loan sharks who are holding his IOUs.

Charlie desperately tries to pay off his debts in one fell swoop by placing a big bet on his only robot in a bout against a bull that is staged at the state fair. However, that leads to disaster when his rusty remote controlled machine not only loses, but is reduced to a worthless pile of scrap metal.

Charlie has just about hit rock bottom, and then he receives word that his ex-girlfriend has just passed away. He also finds out that he is the legal guardian of his 11-year-old son, whom he’s never even met. Max (Dakota Goyo) soon arrives, accompanied by his wealthy Aunt Debra (Hope Davis) and Uncle Marvin (James Rebhorn), who assume that the down-and-out deadbeat father would be more than happy to let them care for the boy.

After Charlie threatens to put Max up for adoption, he signs away his rights for $100,000 with the caveat that he can spend the summer with Max before surrendering custody to Debra and Marvin. They grudgingly agree, thereby giving the the father and son an opportunity to get to know each other. They spend the summer turning an obsolete android — that was abandoned in a junk yard — into a contender for the World Robot Boxing Federation crown.

Real Steel is a boxing film that packs a surprisingly powerful emotional (pardon the expression) punch. It is a cliché-ridden science fiction movie about boxing robots set in the year 2020. Although the picture’s plotline sounds like a futuristic version of Rocky, the sentimental father-son drama actually is more of an adventure film by Steven Spielberg, who is the executive producer, than a Sylvester Stallone classic.

Director Shawn Levy elicits an endearing chemistry between Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo while simultaneously ratcheting up the tension around their boxing robot’s prospects in the ring. As a result, the audience up cares as much, or more, about Charlie and Max’s blossoming relationship than it does about their quest for the boxing crown.

Excellent (*** stars). Rated PG-13 for violence, intense action, and brief profanity. Running time: 127 minutes. Distributor: Touchstone Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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