Two Jews on Film: By Joan Alperin Schwartz - The year is 2020. Things look pretty much the same as they do now... Except in the world of boxing. Humans have evolved to the point where they no longer get excited by watching men and women pummel each other. Score one for us.
What we have instead is 'Robot Boxing' which I have to say is...really, really cool...especially the way it's depicted in this new fantasy, action film, called 'Real Steel' directed by Shawn Levy.
First of all, these 'robot boxers' aren't your everyday garden variety robots. These animatronic, mechanical men are over 8 feet tall, made of steel and each one has its own very unique personality. And wow, can they box.
When 'Real Steel' opens, we meet, Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) a washed up fighter who finds himself in a world where he doesn't fit in. No longer a boxer, Charlie makes his living hustling. He travels from one seamy underground boxing venue to the next, scoring fights for his low-end bots that he's pieced together.
After his last robot gets destroyed at a County Fair boxing match, run by super sleazy ex boxer/promoter, Ricky (the wonderful Kevin Durand) Charlie desperately needs money...not only to buy another robot, but to pay off his gambling debts.
Charlie makes his way to Tallet's gym and to his girlfriend, Bailey Tallet. Her father trained Charlie back in the day...Now she helps him rebuild his robots and rest his weary bones, whenever he comes into town.
Only this time, Bailey has had it with Charlie and his fighting bots. She's spent years giving Charlie money and now she's not only broke but on the verge of losing her gym.
As fate would have it, Charlie finds out that he's a father. Back-story moment: After Charlie broke up with late girlfriend; she gave birth to a boy, Max (Dakota Goyo). Max is now eleven and the deceased girlfriend's sister, Debra (Hope Davis) and her wealthy husband, Marvin (James Rebhorn) want custody of him. Got all that?
Charlie, being the wheeler-dealer that he is, agrees to give them Max...for a price...$100,000. Now you can't really blame him...He doesn't even know the boy and he desperately needs the money, so he can buy a new robot.
Marvin agrees on one conditioner...Charlie has to keep Max for the summer so he and his wife can go off on their planned Italian vacation. Charlie reluctantly agrees.
Now this arrangement doesn't sit at all well with Max... The kid feels abandoned by his father and he doesn't want anything to do with him. And Charlie...well he probably can't even spell the word...nurturing. He is totally clueless when it comes to being a dad.
'Real Steel' is the story of the 'underdog'...It's also the story of three abandoned beings...Charlie, Max and Atom, the little robot that nobody wanted that come together and surprise the world and they surprise each other.
This film has brilliantly designed robots, edge of your seat boxing matches...and a robot...doing the 'Robot'. It's a movie that will have you smiling way after the credits come on the screen. .
'Real Steel' is a film for anyone who's connected to their 'inner kid'. I gave it 4 1/2 bagels out of 5. John had as usual, a different opinion. Check out our video to see his bagel score.
'Real Steel' opens in theaters Friday, October 7, 2011.