BLU-RAY REVIEW: Real Steel
2,000 pound, 8-foot tall robots take to the ring on hi-def home video...
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Hugh Jackman continues to impress fans of action films with his latest movie to hit home video: Real Steel. While originally touted by some as "live-action Rock'em Sock'em Robots," Real Steel is, thankfully, so much more. It's got an emotionally-taunt, heart-felt story, impressive visual effects (it's been nominated for an Academy Award!), solid acting, and dynamic action that'll have everyone cheering.
An engaging tale of a down on his luck ex-fighter named Charlie Kenton (Jackman) who scrapes by as a Robot Fighter (controlling a massive, mechanical robot in the ring against other robots, bulls, and anything else they'll pay him to fight), Real Steel starts off with a great sense of humor and plenty of action and drama. Kenton is a resourceful, cunning, and street-smart man who's tied down to no where and no one. But, when Kenton suddenly finds out his son, Max (with whom Kenton has never had a relationship) is motherless, he's stuck with learning what it means to be a father.
Similar in story to the 1987 arm wrestling movie Over the Top and similar in emotinal draw to the classic 1976 fighting movie Rocky, Real Steel finds Kenton forced to learn to deal with his 12-year-old son as well as other problems he's had in life. Movies about kids teaching parents and/or adults aren't anything new, but - when combined with robot boxing - Real Steel feels fresh, unique, and truly one-of-a-kind.
The acting is solid with Hugh Jackman in the lead as Kenton, Dakota Goyo perfectly playing Max, and Evangeline Lilly playing Kenton's gym owner/"more than a friend" Bailey. Along side these leads, the supporting cast includes the talented Anthony Mackie as a fight announcer, Kevin Durand as a hustler out to collect, Hope Davis and James Rebhorn as Max's aunt and uncle, and Karl Yune and Olga Fonda as the builder and owner of the most powerful, undefeated robot boxer around. All play their parts well, with sincerity and feeling which gives the film true heart. However, it's the interaction between stars Jackman and Goyo that makes this film great. Likewise, the emotionally development between Adam and Max is also brilliant; the robot boxer trained by Max and Kenton and built - literally - from the ground up is a star as well, even if he has no voice or emotions.
As for the video and audio, the film comes loaded for the videophile. It's got an impressive 1080p picture with bold, brilliant colors, sharp contrast, deep darks, and perfect textures. Same with the audio, which - thanks to the lossless DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack - thunders with the clash of robot boxers, a hip-hop soundtrack, easily understood front-end dialogue, and effects which will make anyone with a quality surround sound system smile. Every punch, every mechanical whine or hiss, every cheering crowd, and every loser's gasp of anguish comes through clear and crisp.
As for special features, Real Steel features a few, including a copy of the film on both blu-ray and DVD, the "Real Steel Second Screen," which features director Shawn Levy talking on your iPad or computer during the film and "Countdown to the Fight: The Charlie Kenton Story," a 14-minute faux documentary featuring cast members in character discussing the story leading up to the film's climactic finale. Other special features include the 14-minute featurette "Making of Metal Valley," which follows the shooting of one of the film's most memorable scenes; a short, 6-minute "Building the Bots" which looks at the robot designs, both in CGI and animatronic; and the 6-minute "Sugar Ray Leonard: Cornerman's Champ," which examines the champ's contribution to the film as trainer fro Jackman. Lastly, a number of deleted and extended scenes as well as bloopers are also included.
Overall, Real Steel is one of the best all-around family films I've seen in quite some time. While it might feature some harsh language at times and there's plenty of violence, Real Steel features an emotional appeal unlike many films made today. It's heart-warming, exciting, entertaining, and action-packed, never forgetting what really attracts movie goers isn't the amazing special effects, but the amazing story that's relateable and real.
Real Steel is rated PG-13 for some violence, intense action and brief language. Real Steel is available now on blu-ray and DVD wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley