Selfish, down-on-his-luck former boxer, Charlie Kenton, scratches out an existence with his large, fighting robot but soon his only source of income is destroyed in a fight. When his ex-partner dies, he is secretly paid to take in his son, Max, who he has no fatherly love for. However, when Max discovers a working, old robot on a scrap heap, the pair work together to build the machine to fight well and soon Charlie finds out that looking out for number one isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Real Steel (2011) – Director: Shawn Levy

Is Real Steel appropriate for kids

“Real Steel Poster” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –

Rating: 12

Running Length: 127 mins

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo

Genre: Action, Science Fiction


Taking a break from his iconic role of the honourable and tough Wolverine of the X-Men franchise, Hugh Jackman plays an altogether different character in the self-absorbed Charlie Kenton in ‘Real Steel’. Based on the short story, ‘Steel’ by Richard Matheson, ‘Real Steel’ follows Charlie’s route to happiness in his relationship with his son which starts from rock bottom.

With both animatronic robots being used as well as computer generated effects for the fight scenes, the film looks fantastic and the far-fetched idea of fighting robots becomes very much real on-screen. While ‘Real Steel’ has been criticised for its ‘formulaic’ plot surrounding the father/son relationship, this doesn’t stop it from being highly entertaining. Evangeline Lilly’s character, Bailey, could do with being fleshed out some more and Anthony Mackie’s bookmaker, Finn, could do with some extra screen time to show his friendship with Charlie but overall the central characters carry the film well.

With plenty of fights to keep everyone engrossed and Charlie being a likeable rogue, ‘Real Steel’ ticks all the boxes for a popcorn-munching flick that doesn’t require a great deal of thought and will satisfy a lazy afternoon desire for entertainment.


Charlie arranges a fight between his robot and a bull at a fair in a rodeo-style arena. The bull charges aggressively at the robot and although it manages to do some damage, it gets grabbed and forced to the floor, later in the fight the bull is punched and knocked over (although it gets up quickly and seems not to be badly hurt). A part of the robot is pulled off and the bull retreats with it stuck among its horns. It is unexpected that a protagonist would be as casual about potentially hurting a live animal as this, especially as the character’s personality hasn’t yet been established at this point so some kids may be a little upset by this scene.

Charlie has debts which cause him to have people chasing him for his money and they are often aggressive towards him. When on the phone, and angry man tell him that he wants the money that is owed to him and another man tells him that he’s ‘gonna beat (you) to within an inch of (your) life’. When he is approached by two men, Charlie punches one hard in the face, knocking him to the floor. One character is badly beaten in front of a child, their attackers punch, kick and use a baseball bat; although it isn’t overly graphic, this is quite unexpected and could be a little distressing for younger viewers.

The robots do not seem to have emotions or feelings so when they are damaged it is not treated with emotion. However, some kids may be upset by some of the damage that is inflicted. This is especially true with regards to the ‘underdog’ likability of Atom (who has gently glowing blue ‘eyes’ and a stain marked wire mesh face which resembles a smile). The robots are shown to smash each other mercilessly; they crush each others’ heads and punch into their bodies. One of the robots is completely destroyed during a fight, its arm is ripped off and its head flies off. As it lies on the floor, oil leaks out of it which looks like a large pool of blood.



‘Real Steel’ is a fun-filled family action film that has elements for everyone to enjoy: fighting robots for the kids, and a nice, uncomplicated plot for the adults to engage with. Due to a non-heroic/dishonourable character being the protagonist and some bad language, we recommend this movie for kids aged 9 and over.

  • Violence: 2/5 (mostly fighting between mindless robots. Some violence against people but not too graphic)
  • Emotional Distress: 1/5 (a few emotional moments when Charlie realises he cares for his son)
  • Fear Factor: 0/5
  • Sexual Content: 0/5 (a male character asks a woman if she ‘wants to take a shower’ with him. A man gets into bed with a woman but they are both fully clothed and there is no implication of physical intimacy. A woman wears a tight, all over PVC outfit but she is only shown for a few seconds)
  • Bad Language: 3/5 (relatively infrequent mild to moderate cursing and blasphemy)
  • Dialogue: 2/5 (during one of the fights, a character says ‘get back in that corner bitch, and take this whooping like a man’)
  • Protagonist, Charlie Kenton, is implied to be a heavy drinker. At one point he wakes up surrounded by beer bottles with one in his hand.
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of selfishness, familial love, accepting your flaws, ambition, following your heart and trusting someone’s opinions.

Words by Laura Record

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