Despite shooting from obscurity to overnight fame as X-Men‘s Wolverine, and then going on to become the face of the franchise for close to two decades, you don’t tend to find Hugh Jackman starring in action movies. In fact, if you exclude his multiple recurring appearances as Logan, then the actor hasn’t been in anything that fits neatly into the action genre since 2004’s Van Helsing.
Still, he’s appeared in several effects-heavy productions packed with plenty of scale and spectacle since then, although they haven’t all been particularly good. One of the 51 year-old’s more forgotten movies recently arrived on Netflix, though, and has since been playing like gangbusters, with Real Steel currently the second most popular title on the streaming service in the United States behind only Enola Holmes, which is no shame when the pic is poised to become one of the platform’s biggest ever original movies.
Directed by the relentlessly mediocre Shawn Levy, Real Steel stars Jackman as Charlie Kenton, a deadbeat and absent father who basically sells his child to his dead wife’s parents for $100,000 because he wants nothing to do with him, in a heartwarming and upbeat adventure that’s all about bonding and reconnecting with loved ones.
Of course, the real selling point is the knockdown and drag out fights between giant robots, and on that front, the $110 million effort delivers. The story is something that’s been seen a million times before, but focusing on huge metallic fighters at least allows Real Steel to put a fresh spin on the tropes of the sports movie, with Hugh Jackman anchoring the entire thing as the only interesting human character to be found thanks to a typically charismatic performance.