Opening 3 Nov 2011
Filmmaker Shawn Levy based his latest narrative feature on the short story written by Dan Gilroy and Jeremy Leven called Steel. The theme of redemption allowed screenwriter John Gatins to cap on the journey in which the three main characters – a father, a son, a robot – deal with their experience of being abandoned. Levy was drawn to the project because the script premised a creative and thrilling sports storyline with a heart focusing on a severed father-son relationship. Levy notes, “The story was galvanizing for me.”
Ex-boxer Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is a small-time boxing hustler promoting steel robot (“bots”) fighters. Charlie is also the creator of his eight-feet tall steel robot machines designed for sport boxing, but the beautiful young Bailey (Evangeline Lilly) is the one who builds the metal monsters. Her workshop is in her father’s former boxing gym – the place Charlie got his start. Charlie is always on the make for a good clean fight but over estimates the abilities of his bots over more high-tech competitors and is on a losing streak both monetarily and in bots. The edge that Charlie has is his experience as a prize fighter and vows to Bailey that one day it will come in handy when he programs his bot fighters for human-like maneuvers that once made him famous. Bailey smiles out of pity and allows him to dream of a better life for himself. His exhibition “bots” take him to fights in the strangest low-life places; thus, keeping him on the road and living out of his hi-tech workshop utility truck often used for quick getaways when he gets in trouble with the loan sharks.
Down on his luck and running from creditors, Charlie’s estranged twelve year old son, Max (Dakota Goyo), comes into his life after the sudden death of his ex-wife. Charlie knows that his complicated selfish life is not appropriate for a kid but works out a deal. He allows Max to stay with him for the summer until arrangements are made to live with very rich relatives, and Charlie is given a sizeable monetary bribe for his efforts.
Charlie meets his match with the tough-boy son Max. He doesn’t automatically see the kid’s potential or his technical expertise until Max puts Charlie to shame while searching for spare bot parts at the local metal scrapyard. Max goes to great lengths to rescue a steel robot he later calls Atom from the junk yard heap after Max claims it saves his life. Max’s story is telling and Bailey knows that a father-son bonding time is long overdue. Bailey invites Charlie and Max to pull their know-how and resources together along with her help in order to build something special. Bailey encourages the obvious and combines Charlie’s experience as a real prize fighter coins it with Max’s technical savvy and Atom’s intricate programmed intelligence to do a little dance, make a little love and get down for fights to work the trio’s edge. Over time they create a fascinating steel robot boxing contender that could be the ticket for the big money. Charlie’s new lease on life is the second chance he needs to do right by Max and curtail the irresponsible life he allowed to let dictate his destiny. Once forgotten, now found Charlie, Max and Atom put exhilaration into a heartfelt story of redemption. (Karen Pecota)