Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Real Steel (2011)

     Against my better judgment, I think, I really enjoyed Real Steel (2011).  It took some doing, as Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is a thoroughly unlikeable bum when divorced from the charm and good looks of the actor portraying him.  I cannot recall a film that has overindulged more in terms of painting its protagonist in such a negative light (even if it is mildly, family friendly negativity) that was attempting to do something other than shock the audience.
     I don't know where to start with my complaints about Max Kenton (Dakota Goyo).  Okay, why does the child have his father's last name?  How did he manage to become so spoiled?  Why does he have any affection for a father he has never met and knows nothing about?  And why did I want him to be viciously beaten by any of the various characters who exist to lend credibility to the idea that there are people who wish to viciously beat those who have aggrieved them in some minor manner?  I just hated the character and found him to be a poor element to draw out a more human side of Charlie.  Why not just write a more human side?  Do children need to see a child in a film to like it?  That wasn't the case when I was little.
     Anyway, I did like this movie.  Despite the fact that is seemed to borrow a location and its inhabitants straight out of Police Academty 2: Their First Assignment (1985).  Despite the fact that it posits a world where bulls are impervious to any damage and professional robot bowing operators spend no time learning anything about their 'bots before throwing them into combat.  Or that these robots would become well known when all the audience is shown is that one invariably gets destroyed in the action; not every robot could have a long run of winning every match.  Oh, and the fact that the desire for more carnage spawned robot boxing (let's never explain why the one main event is called "Real Steel", okay) and not some kind of underground bloodsport – and there are plenty of films that suppose that while boxing and MMA events exist – is quite ridiculous.
     But Real Steel does hit enough notes to get past all of these problems.  There is enough kinetic action in the boxing sequences to draw the audience in, and the humor in those scenes is almost well (and sparsely) paced.  Jackman (and to some degree, Goyo) play well off the salvaged robot at the heart of their story.  Sure, there are more than a few holes in the story that grated at me, but it met my relatively low threshold for internal consistency.  I was able to sit back and let the predictable – except for Charlie being an ass – story play out.  I may have preferred for Max to have been taught a few hard lessons, but the more cheerful version that director Shawn Levy crafted worked fine.

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