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Jackie K. Cooper

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Real Steel Is the Real Deal

Posted: 10/10/11 06:05 PM ET

Real Steel is the "real deal." It takes the best from Transformers, Rocky and The Champ and blends it into an exciting story with strong emotional overtones. Hugh Jackman has the lead role as the down on his luck ex-boxer Charlie Kenton but he is given stiff competition by Dakota Goyo as his son Max. The cast, the story and the special effects are all part of the wonderment that makes up Real Steel.

Charlie makes his living with a robot he uses in boxing matches of the future. The metallic hulk goes up against other metallic hulks and it is a fight to the death or destruction of the other. Most of Charlie's fights are at county fairs or other low venues, where he runs up enormous debts as he keeps losing. Just when he is really down on his luck he learns an old girlfriend, with whom he had a child, has died. Charlie has to appear in court to abandon his claim to his son Max (Goyo) or make it.

What Charlie ends up doing is making a deal. Max's Aunt Debra (Hope Davis) really wants custody of Max but her rich husband Marvin (James Rebhorn) wants a summer alone with his wife. So Marvin pays Charlie $100,000 if he asks to keep Max for the summer. This happens so Charlie and Max spend the summer together, during which time they put together another fighting robot that becomes an unexpected success.

The bouts between the robot "Atom" and other robots make up the excitement of the film. The efforts of Charlie to make a comeback with the robot and become respected makes up the basic storyline. But the story of the growing relationship between Charlie and Max is the emotional center, and in my opinion the best part of the movie.

Jackman is an actor with charisma to burn. Even though his character is unlikeable at the start of the movie, it only takes him a short time to win the audience over. He makes Charlie likeable, understandable, and even slightly respectable. It is a good role for Jackman and he makes the most of the opportunities.

Evangeline Lilly is the romantic interest for Charlie's character. She has just the right mixture of toughness and beauty to make audiences like her too. It has been a while since we have seen this "Lost" actress perform but she still has the magnetism she exhibited on that popular TV show.

As good as Jackman and Lilly are, Goyo is the find of the film. He is the emotional center as Max and the one you remember when the film is over. His relationship with the robot and with Charlie is reminiscent of Ricky Schroeder's role in "The Champ." You could even say he has "Ricky Schroeder's eyes" which go right to your heart.

The film is rated PG-13 for profanity and violence.

As film entertainment, Real Steel soars. It won't win any awards but it does touch the heart and excite the mind. Who knew those robots were going to have a life after Transformers?

I scored Real Steel a real deal 7 out of 10.