Real Steel's Hugh Jackman: What the Critics Are Saying About His Performance

Walt Disney Pictures

Most think Mel Gibson would have been a better fit to play the boxer-turned-robot trainer.

Hugh Jackman's robot drama Real Steel won the weekend box office wars, earning $27.3 million.

Jackman plays former hard-nosed boxer-turned-robot trainer Charlie Kenton, who ends up reluctantly caring for a son he fathered years ago after the boy's mother dies.

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What are critics saying about his performance?

"It goes without saying that gruff Charlie eventually will succumb to his inner dad and embrace Max, but it's a big problem that Charlie is genuinely unlikable. Impatient, defensive and rude, he's thoroughly deficient in redeeming human qualities," writes The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy.

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"Working hard to deliver the accent and externals of an American 'street' character, Jackman doesn't provide Charlie with a glimmer of heart until the very end. It's easy to imagine, say, Mel Gibson of 15 years ago giving such a role just the right balance between jerk and hidden softie, but Jackman's Charlie comes off as almost entirely abrasive, someone you'd go out of your way to avoid," he adds.

The New York Times' Stephen Holden agrees with McCarthy.

"Because Charlie is a much colder fish than the lugs played by Sylvester Stallone and Mickey Rourke (I would have preferred Russell Crowe or the younger Mel Gibson as Charlie), the character is a bit of a problem for the film. Even after he warms up and becomes an enthusiastic dad who defers to his son, he is more shark than cuddlesome papa bear," writes Holden.

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"One thing missing is a genuine love story, although “Real Steel” throws in a perfunctory romance between Mr. Jackman’s Rocky Balboa-like character, Charlie Kenton, and Bailey (Evangeline Lilly), his former sweetheart who owns a boxing gym that doubles as a robot workshop. Charlie is a down-and-out former boxer turned sleazy fight promoter on the underground robot boxing circuit in a world where machines have replaced humans as prizefighting combatants."

The Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey writes, "Max just knows the bot has the circuitry of a champion — but sparking a flicker of life in Jackman, who's had a tough time getting his acting to outshine his muscle-flexing prowess and his model good looks (see the "X-Men" franchise for the first, celebrity fashion spreads for the rest).

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"Charlie (Jackman) is a consistent loser on the circuit, carting around his bots — and pieces — in an 18-wheeler, making bad bets and usually running out rather than paying up. The one slip-up that surprises him is Max, the son he fathered and had forgotten," she adds.

"As Charlie, Jackman is mostly surface gloss — he knows how to work a greasy tee and a bad attitude, glaring and growling at everyone. He softens slightly with Lilly's Bailey (so nice to see her bruised, buff beauty back since Lost wrapped)," she goes on.

The Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert also is not a fan of Jackman's performance, writing, "Charlie is a very bad absent father, and as played by Hugh Jackman, he is actually mean toward his boy."