Real Steel

2011, PG-13, 127 min. Directed by Shawn Levy. Starring Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Durand, Hope Davis, James Rebhorn, Olga Fonda, Karl Yune.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Oct. 7, 2011

Real Steel

Real Steel may have a hardened outer shell, but it’s pure marshmallow on the inside. This kids’ film mixes the heart of Rocky and dozens of other come-from-behind boxing dramas with the geeky gadget gestalt of films like The Transformers and Star Wars. Thinly derived from a Richard Matheson short story, Real Steel is set in a debased near-future in which robot boxing has become all the rage. Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is a former champion boxer who now makes a bad living as a hustler of robot matches. The film’s opening scenes establish that he’s welshed on many debts and unlikely to hit a big payday with any of the third-rate tin cans he puts into the ring. He’s a gruff, unlikable guy, and when he’s informed of his long-lost son whose mother has just died, Charlie makes self-serving financial arrangements for the boy’s care. The terms of that arrangement allow him to purchase an old sparring robot named Atom, although he must also become the guardian of his son Max (Dakota Goyo) for the summer.

It comes as no surprise to anyone but Charlie that he and his son bond before the summer is through. The film’s predictability is a serious drawback. Jackman infuses Charlie with a kinetic energy that’s compelling to watch, and young Goyo has a sweet and spunky charm that resists most of the cloying attributes that hamper most child actors. Lost’s Evangeline Lilly remains lost, however, in this film role as Charlies’s too-good-to-be-true romantic interest. Night at the Museum director Shawn Levy hits all the right notes that should guarantee the film’s appeal to young and old joystick junkies who, despite outward appearances, harbor sentimental hearts.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Shawn Levy Films
Free Guy
Ryan Reynolds levels up for the summer’s most charming and fun blockbuster

Matthew Monagle, Aug. 13, 2021

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
This well-worn premise still has some life in it.

Louis Black, Dec. 19, 2014

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
All That Breathes
The struggle by three men to save the endangered black kite

March 31, 2023

SXSW Film Review: <i>Joy Ride</i>
Film Review: Joy Ride
Groundbreaking comedy doesn't break the raunchy mold

March 19, 2023


Real Steel, Shawn Levy, Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Durand, Hope Davis, James Rebhorn, Olga Fonda, Karl Yune

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle