By 2020, technology will have advanced to give us even cooler phones and GSP systems, but most impressive (at least according to director Shawn Levy) will be boxing robots. And what does a former (human) boxer do when he is replaced by the technology of robots? Become the operator and promoter of said robots, naturally. But more importantly, what kind of music does he fight and train to? The year might be 2020, but the artists making up the soundtrack for Real Steel almost read like it was released in the 1990s with songs from Limp Bizkit, The Crystal Method, The Prodigy and Foo Fighters. And this is not a bad thing.

Real Steel is all about the performance (both in and outside of the ring) and the swagger filled soundtrack will get your adrenaline pumping as you root for the underdog team of former boxer Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), his son Max (Dakota Goyo) and their robot, Atom. From the moment we meet Max he has headphones around his neck and as the story unfolds, music becomes as much a part of the world of Real Steel as the robots.

Within the movie, the songs are interspersed with score from Danny Elfman that help to enhance the more emotional moments of the story, but on the soundtrack, the beats come at you one after another making it feel as though you were living in the middle of the stadium ring. Yes, this is a loud mix with booming bass and percussion, but in a world where eight-foot tall robots fight to the “death,” you would need a soundtrack that is able to rise above the noise of metal on metal carnage.

The soundtrack kicks off with “Fast Lane” from Bad Meets Evil, the rap duo of Royce da 5’9” and Eminem. Eminem also has a solo track, “’Til I Collapse,” and his flows pop up throughout the film giving an almost subconscious impression that Eminem is the sound of the future (or at least the future world of robot boxing). Considering Eminem began his career as an underdog rapper who was constantly bet against, his story and frenetic raps make him a perfect match for the tone and feel of a film about people not only trying to make it as a boxing team, but as a family.

Eminem is certainly not alone as the soundtrack also boasts tracks from fellow hip-hop artists Beastie Boys with “Here’s a Little Something for Ya,” 50 Cent’s “The Enforcer” and a new track from Timbaland, “Give It a Go.” But the soundtrack is not all hip-hop with Foo Fighters and Rival Sons bringing the rock on “Miss the Misery” and “Torture” and The Crystal Method and The Prodigy (joined by Tom Morello) mixing in some alternative tracks with “Make Some Noise (Put ‘Em Up)” and “One Man Army.” Morello even has a solo track with “The Midas Touch,” giving the soundtrack one of its few all instrumental (but still driving) tracks.

The theme of the film is made pretty clear looking at the song titles alone, Real Steel is a David versus Goliath story of a father/son team going against a corporate machine to the actual David and Goliath battle between their junk yard robot and the undefeated champ. One of the more mellow moments on the soundtrack (and in the film) comes from Alexi Murdoch’s “All My Days,” which you may sound familiar as his LP (“Time Without Consequence”) was one of the most licensed albums of the past decade. Even though the song is one you may have heard before, it actually works within the film (even though it may stand out a bit from the pack on the soundtrack).

Real Steel is a fun time and a large part of that was due to the soundtrack that never let up. The walk out to the ring is usually paired with a rocking track to get the crowd (and those headed into the ring) pumped up, and Real Steel takes this idea and applies it to its full two-hour run time. It’s hard not to love a killer action scene set to equally pulse pounding music, and that music holds up both in and out of the movie.

The Upside: The music helps keep the energy of the film pumping from beginning to end and the soundtrack on its own would be a kick-ass gym mix (whether you’re in training or not).

The Downside: After eleven straight tracks of high octane beats, ending with Murdoch’s toned down track and one of Elfman’s scored tracks end up bringing the energy to a sudden halt.

On the Flipside: Real Steel does not just leave the music to the background, it becomes a part of the film with Max proving that he is not just good with supping up robots, he’s got some moves too. And with a robot that can mirror his movements, dancing quickly becomes as much a part of the act as winning the fights.

Grade: B

This soundtrack is available through Interscope Records.

  1. “Fast Lane” – Bad Meets Evil
  2. “Here’s A Little Something For Ya” – The Beastie Boys
  3. “Miss The Misery” – Foo Fighters
  4. “The Enforcer” – 50 Cent
  5. “Make Some Noise (Put ‘Em Up)” – The Crystal Method
  6. “’Til I Collapse” – Eminem
  7. “One Man Army” – The Prodigy
  8. “Give It A Go” – Timbaland, Veronica
  9. “The Midas Touch” – Tom Morello
  10. “Why Try” – Limp Bizkit
  11. “Torture” – Rival Sons
  12. “All My Days” – Alexi Murdoch
  13. “Kenton” – Danny Elfman

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