2 out of 5
New to dvd – Hands of Stone. A boxing biopic written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz staring Edgar Ramirez as Roberto Duran alongside Robert De niro as trainer Ray Arcel.
“There has never been another boxer, who smelled, sounded, sensed and was, the embodiment of the word machismo” Said Bert Sugar of Roberto Duran.
Quite simply this re-telling does not live up to the legend of Duran. It falls way behind the recent boxing film success of Southpaw and Creed.
The film is based on the incredible life of the greatest lightweight of all time, Roberto Duran. A true underdog story of success against the odds. Of rugged grit and determination thriving against the harsh Panamanian poverty he was born into.
The boxing choreography is terrific making the boxing matches very believable. However, the size of Ramirez in the portrayal of a lightweight was nonsensical especially as he remained the same size fighting at welterweight. This is particularly insulting to co-star De Niro’s Oscar winning role as Jake Lamotta in The Raging Bull. For the role he had to pile on over sixty pounds to accurately depict an aging fighter.
Usher the R & B singer made a surprisingly impressive performance as Sugar Ray Leonard. He depicted all of the charm, charisma and good looks that made Leonard one of the most beloved boxers of all time. It is difficult to imagine anyone more suited to the role. However this casting genius was overshadowed by the farcical portrayal of the infamous Don King. Reg E. Cathey did nothing to illustrate the exuberance and devilish brilliance of the most flamboyant promoter in boxing history.
Edgar Ramirez’s performance leaves a sour taste in the mouth of anyone who has followed Duran’s career. Try as he may the fire and passion that was the essence of Duran never comes across. The shouting and gloating is there, but the raw aggression ego and swagger does not come across. The scripting and directing of the film did not help as it made Duran appear insecure, petty and overawed by his wife. Furthermore in the desperation to create a romantic backdrop throughout the film, too much emphasis is put on the marriage. This leaves many of the fantastic stories myths and achievements of the former four weight world champion unsaid.
De Niro puts in a typically impressive performance as Ray Arcel, portraying the knowledge befitting a man who trained more than 2000 boxers. De Niro outshone his younger co-star at times which did nothing to strengthen the impression of a trainer, fighter bond. The lack of chemistry made it hard to believe they were fighter and trainer – bonded by blood.
It is hard to place who would enjoy this film. The representation of Duran may anger and annoy boxing fans and the jumbled story and weak acting does nothing to stir the emotions. Boxing biopics such as Raging Bull, The Fighter and even Ali are far superior to Hands of Stone, leaving it destined for banality.
If you liked this review, then please check out this list of the best boxing films: