Thursday, 10 November 2011

Real Steel - Dir. Shawn Levy

Shawn Levy has made a name for himself as a director who likes to converge upon and exploit the family-friendly cinema market for everything it is worth. His recent outings include the two successful ‘Night at the Museum’ films and the Steve Carrell driven ‘Date Night,’ and with his latest effort ‘Real Steel’ he carries on this trend of bringing a large-scale, blockbusting picture to the big-screen that appeals to both children and parents alike. As expected with a film involving fighting robotic androids, it’s an over-the-top, CGI-laden action-fest that never attempts to be anything else which somewhat works in its clichéd favour.

It’s the year 2020 and human boxing no longer exists due to human beings insatiable taste for increasingly violent blood sports reaching new, unbridled heights. When society wouldn’t sanction anything more violent and deadly, the World Robot Boxing league was created to satisfy man’s urge for destruction. Here huge, metallic robots battle each other in front of hundreds and thousands of spectators to determine which man, woman or child has created the ultimate, well, killing machine. Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is a former pro-Boxer and full-time loser, his arrogance and stubbornness is a constant contributing factor towards his failure in life to provide for himself and his friend Bailey (Evangeline Lilly). But when his ex-girlfriend dies and he is left with custody of his eleven year old son Max (Dakota Goyo), he must not only juggle his job as a poor man’s robotic boxing coach, but also a young, animated child who understands that the man before him is only his father by blood and nothing more.

Cheesy dialogue, energetic action sequences and exaggerated emotions prosper in ‘Real Steel,’ because Shawn Levy has decided that this film does not need to be taken seriously by any members of the paying audience watching in a nearby theatre or home cinema. Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo play overstated characters whose emotions are literal thrown at the viewer. When they’re feeling a bout of sadness, arms flail, voices rise and tears flow. In no way do the characters react to the subtle nuances that govern everyday life, but instead, they perform to an overstated level, because everything in this film is placed into entertainment overdrive. The robots are huge, meandering objects of destruction, and the underground arenas are stereotypically on the ‘bad part of town’ (except for a Zoo, of all places). While the script perfectly encapsulates the desperate, stereotypical situation this father-son duo find themselves in both financially and emotionally, as their relationship slowly develops throughout the course of the film. Essentially all three elements combine in their own tawdry way to create something which can easily be described as; harmless, brainless fun.

This film is a case of; if you drop your cinematic guard and allow yourself to be sucker punched, you’ll probably come away happy. If an audience member goes into ‘Real Steel’ with high expectations, he or she should come away feeling mildly disappointed, however if the audience member in question goes into the theatre with low expectations, there is no doubt that they would come away feeling somewhat satisfied. This doesn’t necessarily mean that every scene contains engaging entertainment, but the majority do, including the final act, in which even the terribly tacky product-placement can’t ruin a predictable, yet enjoyable conclusion.
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