An at-times unusual blend of intense futuristic boxing and schmaltzy, predictable father and son drama, this science fiction adventure is a mixed bag but should find a keen audience these school holidays.
Based on a 1956 short story by Richard Matheson, Real Steel is set in the near future, which looks a lot like 2011 but with flashier gadgets and boxing robots.
These 2000-pound, 8-foot-tall steel robots look like Transformers and perform like WWE stars; the battling bots can't speak and are controlled by humans as if they're playing a real-life computer game.
Ex-boxer Charlie Kenton (Jackman) is a robot fighter; a small-time promoter who is constantly in debt, makes bets he can't pay, and pits his robots in battles they can't win. This changes when he's landed with his estranged 11-year-old son for the summer holidays. Max (Goyo) is just as passionate about robot fighting, but more level-headed than his father.
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The two reconcile over a robot called Atom, who Max finds in a recycling yard, with Max hammering into his father a few life lessons on loyalty, family, recognising a good bet and believing in the little guy. Atom gives Charlie a chance to redeem his lost boxing career and win back his son.
It's a bit mushy and predictable. Not Max's dedication to Atom, which connects you with Atom and makes you nervous about his fights; that's kind of magical. What's over the top are all the tears - close-ups of people in tears, slow motion shots of people in tears - and a nostalgia for an old-fashioned America with its state fairs and rundown boxing gyms.
It's a stark comparison to the testosterone-filled fighting scenes, which look impressive and sound even better. Even if you're not a boxing fan, it's easy to get caught up in Charlie, Max and Atom's success as they go from street fights to the big league. This is a movie worth viewing in the Imax theatre as you're right in the action and able to admire the brilliantly-shot, motion capture technology used for the robot battles.
Real Steel has everything a Transformer-loving, computer game savvy teenage male could want; it's also a feel-good family drama that will appeal to his mother.
Cast: Dakota Goyo, Hugh Jackman
Director: Shawn Levy
Running time: 127 mins
Rating: M (Violence)
Verdict: Thrilling holiday entertainment - if you like boxing, robots or Hugh Jackman.