SCI-FI; 2hr 7min
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly
Botty language: Jackman and (rear) Goyo
In the 2020 world of the ripper Real Steal, robot boxing is big, showy business. A rough-around-the-edges Hugh Jackman is Charlie Kenton, a ’bot handler in the hole for thousands to some bad-news people. Charlie’s career is cactus until the 11-year-old son he has just met (Goyo as Max) discovers abandoned robot Atom.
With the exception of the unaccountably soulful Atom (it’s no surprise that Steven Spielberg is an executive producer), the mammoth animatronic machines are sinisterly humanoid. They’re the heavy-metal heroes of the hour; gladiators and media stars with names such as Noisy Boy and Zeus who whip the great unwashed into a frenzy with their slam-junk ferocity. The major players have rock-star entourages and rule arenas of screaming fans but until puppyish Atom makes his presence felt, Charlie and Max’s domain is the marginal and the seedy. Their evolution into a winning father–son team — based on a 1956 short story by Richard Matheson — is a multi-hankie weepie from director Shawn Levy, blending edge-of-seat excitement with hard-won triumph in a classic defiance of loser odds.