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Hugh Jackman may have shot to fame as Wolverine and become both an integral part and the marquee name of Fox’s X-Men franchise for almost two decades, but when he wasn’t growing out his sideburns and hitting the gym to play Logan, the actor never really ventured into blockbuster territory too often, and his stance hasn’t changed, either, since retiring the claws in 2016.
A lot of that has to do with the fact that the overwhelming majority of his big budget productions weren’t particularly good, and nearly every single movie Jackman has played a major role in that cost over $100 million to produce has been dismissed by critics and bombed at the box office. Swordfish, Van Helsing, Australia and Pan were all terrible efforts in their respective genres, but his fifth big budget bomb has gone on to find something of a second life as an unappreciated hidden gem.
Real Steel is directed by Shawn Levy, which is a strong hint that it’s a mediocre and effects-heavy family film. And while it most certainly is that, Jackman nonetheless gives a solid performance in the lead that makes the material a lot more engaging than it has any right to be. That is, if you overlook the glaring fact that his character is a terrible dad who essentially sells his child to the in-laws for $100,000 and doesn’t bat an eyelid about it.
The plot is a generic father and son bonding experience packed with the tropes of the sports movie, but Real Steel just happens to be a sports movie about giant robot boxers, which is the entire selling point, and the only one on which it delivers. The fights are visually polished and undeniably impressive, with the clear intention of launching a franchise, but after failing to crack $300 million globally, all plans were abandoned. However, you’ll be able to check it out this week once again when Real Steel arrives on Netflix on September 24th.