Jackman Teaches Robot to Box; Sheen’s Religious Journey: Movies

In “Real Steel,” a futuristic tale about boxing robots, the scrappy underdog uses Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope strategy to tire out its bigger, stronger opponent in a championship bout.

An exhausted robot? The notion is as silly as the film.

Though the story takes place nine years from now, almost everything looks the same as it does today. Granted, we’re not leaping centuries ahead. Still, do you really think cars and mobile phones won’t change dramatically over the next decade?

“Real Steel” should be called “Real Steal” because of all the other movies it rips off, including “Rocky,” “Transformers” and “Rollerball.” Director Shawn Levy and screenwriter John Gatins borrow liberally from so many sources that their work should contain footnotes.

Charlie, played with raffish charm by Hugh Jackman, is a down-and-out former boxer who now operates fighting robots at county fairs and other minor-league venues. He hangs out at a dusty old gym run by his late trainer’s daughter, Bailey (Evangeline Lilly), his lifelong friend and one-time lover.

After his ex-wife dies, Charlie agrees to let her sister raise his 11-year-old son in exchange for a $100,000 payment from her rich husband. Before that happens, though, he gives the curious boy (Dakota Goyo) a tour of the robot-boxing circuit, where the fighting machines are operated like video games by remote control.

While rummaging through a scrap metal yard for spare parts, they find an antiquated robot buried in the ground. The kid discovers that the machine can mimic human behavior, and Charlie teaches it his old boxing moves.

Apparently no one has thought of this before, since the robot starts beating up on newer, fancier models and heading toward a showdown with the invincible champion Zeus. You can figure out the rest.

“Real Steel,” from Walt Disney Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: *1/2

‘The Way’

After his adventurous son dies in the Pyrenees while hiking along the Camino de Santiago trail, California ophthalmologist Tom flies overseas to claim the body.

Tom’s idea of adventure is playing golf with his buddies, but he decides to make the famous 500-mile pilgrimage in northern Spain as a tribute to the son he never understood.

The Way,” from the father-son team of Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, is a casual, free-spirited chronicle of that mountainous trip to a medieval cathedral where the remains of the apostle St. James are supposedly buried.

The movie, written and directed by Estevez, is a religious travelogue that tries to make its points without preaching. It mostly succeeds.

Porky Dutchman

Along the way, Tom (an engaging Sheen) encounters fellow hikers with varying motives: a Canadian (Deborah Kara Unger) who wants to quit smoking; a porky Dutchman (Yorick van Wageningen) who is attempting to lose weight; and a chatty Irish author (James Nesbitt) seeking to overcome writer’s block.

At first, Tom wants to be left alone. As the group wanders through the scenic villages along the trail, he loosens up and starts to enjoy the communal experience.

A road movie with a message, “The Way” is sure to inspire even more people to lace up their hiking boots and take the Camino de Santiago challenge.

“The Way,” from Arc Entertainment and Producers Distribution Agency, is playing in major U.S. cities. Rating: **1/2

What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
(No stars)    Worthless

(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Rick Warner in New York at rwarner1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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