Real Steel (2011)

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In a near future where human boxing has been replaced by bouts fought by giant mechanical robots, an ex-fighter and deadbeat dad bonds with his estranged son while taking a scrapyard reject to the championship.

Rocky gets robotic in this borderline sci-fi that takes the familiar sporting underdog formula and adds some excellent merchandising opportunities. It’s no doubt a very cynical exercise with some blatant product placement to be seen and plenty of colourful robots to line the shelves in Toys R Us, but the fact is that the film is extremely accomplished in its execution. Making the fighters robotic rather than human means that the excitement of the bouts is not coloured with the ugly violence of watching two men beat each other to bloody unconsciousness making for a family friendly sports movie much in the vein of The Karate Kid. The kid in question actually shares some decent chemistry with Hugh Jackman’s likeable jerk and the flashy action scenes are perfectly pitched to get the kids cheering for the heroic “no-hoper”. It’s corny, contrived and very manipulative – the junkyard rescue scene in particular comes very close to crossing the line into vomit inducing – but it works.

Extremely predictable but successfully kiddie friendly nonsense that parents should get some enjoyment from as well.

6.5/10

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