Real Steel | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Real Steel

The same heartwarming life lessons, but now with more fighting robots

click to enlarge Box score: Hugh Jackman trains Atom.
Box score: Hugh Jackman trains Atom.

When Hollywood combines a broke boxer, an orphaned kid and a rusty robot, you just know everything is going to work out OK! For everybody! Except the bad guys, of course.

Real Steel, directed by Shawn Levy, is set in the near future, where everything is the same except cell phones are see-through and America gets its kicks watching huge remote-controlled robots fight. Boxing promoter (Hugh Jackman) reunites with his 11-year-old son (Dakota Goyo), who (literally) unearths a fighting robot at a junk yard. After a good hosing down, the robot springs to life, and dad and lad set to training it. 

The bot, named "Atom," is a big hit on the underground boxing circuit (where low-lifes are defined by 1980s punk fashion and grime, a never-fail cheat). As goes Rocky, so goes Atom, and the plucky underdog gets a shot at the world champ.

The robot boxing scenes are well done, with the novelty of the fighters giving fresh bang to familiar ring dramas. But surrounding that, do we really need another round of barely scripted life lessons and one-dimensional characters (dig the Russian villain and hillbilly huckster), plus soaring music to remind us to sob with joy when everything, unsurprisingly, works out?

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