I read somewhere, probably in one of Common Sense Media's articles because it sounds like something they'd say, that back in the 1980s the violence level for R-rated movies was the same for today's PG-13. I have never seen a 1980s R-rated movie, but I instinctively know that CSM hasn't failed to be wrong. Especially with this movie.
And that's all that "Real Steal" seems to be about: violence, adults and little kids swearing their mouths off, past relationships, and dead beat role models. Even though 85% of the violence involves robots - big, bulky robots mind you - it is still terrifying, though less terrifying than the thought that this has probably been watched by millions of kids younger than twelve. Robots' heads get smashed to crumpled parts, "limbs" get torn off, robots beat and tear at each other. Oh, and there's one scene where a guy that the main character owes money to, and apparently much more, comes and beats him up with some baseball bat-armed cronies and tries to take his kid away. On top of that, there is infrequent, yet noticeable, swearing, from the ex-boxer dad to a six year-old girl (if I remember right). The main character most obviously drinks away his financial sorrows at night when he as any pennies to spare for it. Consumerism? Well, I noticed that there were signs around a boxing arena advertising for Bing, and the main character had a phone that looked like an iPhone. As for sex, a lot of the women at the boxing matches dressed immodestly; the main character has a friendship with benefits with the woman who runs the gym that he runs to whenever he's doing some black-market enterprise to get another robot.
I wouldn't always say that there are good messages - it's a movie that's earning its bread almost solely on the violence - but the writers, possibly without meaning to, made a point that our society, around the movie's futuristic setting of 2020-something, would have morally degraded to the point that the boxing we see on TV for our entertainment, restricted by sport rules and dwindling morals, would not be satisfying to our eyes for violence, so robots stepped in to take over the boxing business, since they could tear each other apart and not be killing any living beings. I think that was the most worthwhile part of the movie, the subtle message of moral degradation concerning violence. It made me think earnestly of the Hunger Games.
In the whole movie, the name Real Steel was used only once, as a name for a violent competition of robots. Seems relatable to the large unimportance of the whole film, except to fill our desires for violence, even with the quiet, possibly accidental, point that by 2020 our morals concerning violence would have steadily disappeared to the point where we looked to robots to tear themselves apart for our own entertainment. I suggest that if your kid, whatever age they be, sees this, that you make that point clear, because the movie didn't do a very good job of that.