Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Video review: "Real Steel"
Every year spawns a few movies that fall into the "love-it-or-hate-it" category, or in the case of "Real Steel," the "like-it-or-hate-it" flick of 2011. Several of my local film critic colleagues have even seen fit to toss it onto their "Worst of the Year" list.
Though hardly a cinematic knockout, I found it to be an amusing, if admittedly overly sappy father/son redemption story with impressively cool robots -- "The Champ" with Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots.
Actually, since the movie came I finally figured out why the boxing robots in the movie are so evocative: they bear a startling resemblance to the iron football goon used in promotional bits for NFL games on Fox. People who might abhor the visceral thrill of boxing and other human blood sport can safely revel in watching two automatons turn each other into scrap metal.
Hugh Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, a former contender in the ring who became a manager of robots when human boxing was outlawed. (The story is set in the near future.) Through a series of unlikely circumstances, Charlie is forced to take Max (Dakota Goya), the son he never met, on the road with him, where they bond through a sequence of misadventures.
Their fortunes take a turn for the better when they uncover a mysterious robot fighter buried in a junkyard, dub him Atom, and before long they're headed to the championship bout.
The CGI battles hit that sweet spot where the robots are just humanistic enough that the audience feels like it has a stake in the outcome, but can safely cheer on the mayhem. We certainly feel more for Atom than we did any of the Transformers in their movies.
"Real Steel" may be overly maudlin, but as lightweight entertainment with a little heart, it's the real deal.
Extras for DVD are fairly OK: a blooper reel, two making-of featurettes, and audio commentary by director Shawn Levy.
The blu-ray edition includes a few upgrades, the centerpiece of which is an interactive "second screen" with videos and behind-the-scenes tidbits. Plus deleted and extended scenes and two more featurettes, including one about Sugar Ray Leonard, who served as boxing consultant on the production.
Movie: 3 stars out of four
Extras: 3 stars