Hands of Stone
review by Bobby Blakey
There have been so many boxing movies over the years that it is really hard to get too excited about the genre sometimes. When they take on an actual famed fighter then the question comes up is it going to be about the fighter or the fight? The latest, Hands of Stone takes on the story of Roberto Duran featuring a great cat including Edgar Ramirez, Robert DeNiro, Ana de Armas, Usher Raymond, Ruben Blades, John Turturro, and Ellen Barkin, but does it do this legendary fighters story justice or will it be down for the count?
Hands of Stone follows the life of Roberto Duran, who made his professional debut in 1968 as a 16-year-old and retired in 2002 at age 50. In June 1980, he defeated Sugar Ray Leonard to capture the WBC welterweight title but shocked the boxing world by returning to his corner in the November rematch, saying 'no mas' (no more). Going into this film its one of those that has a rich history that some may already know and others will be learning for the first time. They have crafted a great film to tell this story to both audiences while not feeling like they dumbed anything down. Duran’s story is inspirational on some level, but he was also not the kind of guy you can always root for either. It always works better for a story like this when they allow it to air out some dirty laundry as opposed to trying to make every one look like a saint all the time. Edgar Ramirez does a great job in the role bringing a swagger and conceded attitude needed to capture his essence effectively. This is probably one of DeNiro’s best performances in some time. It is great seeing him play an older fragile man who takes no crap and serves as a mentor until the very end. They have some great chemistry both good and bad that is essential to making this film work.
The rest of the cast do a great job as well with the gorgeous Ana De Armas taking on the role of Duran’s wife and the grounded nature to his chaotic personality. She brings some great emotion and passion to her character that helps to balance him out. Usher steps into truly iconic boots as the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard to perfection. You can tell he gave everything he had to this role and it paid off. He is only in the film for a short while, but his charisma and visual style did justice to both the story and Leonard’s legacy. For this film to really work they had to capture the time period and they did that to perfection. Seeing Madison Square Garden look so small and low budget in comparison to the way it looks now is the perfect example of how it sets the tone. The fights were decent enough, but could have packed a little more drama especially with the rematch fight. There is a legendary nature to that fight that I just didn’t feel was fully captured given the way it ended and I felt missed a really big moment there.
There is one issue that I had that involved an exchange of sorts with Duran and his wife that I think was missing something in the dialogue to really sell the passion. I was a bit off put about the way it came off because it felt like it made her selfish and uncaring whereas you see that isn’t the case later in the film. Had this been a plot point to unfold then it would have been fine, but it wasn’t it just wasn’t fleshed out in the right way to make it a moment that works properly. In the end this film as a whole is really good. It not only serves as the story of Duran, but also some history in the world of boxing that adds to the enjoyment of the finished product.
In addition to the film this release also includes deleted scenes, music videos and a featurette focusing on the real Roberto Duran. Grab your copy of Hands of Stone available now on Digital HD and on Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand on November 22nd from Anchor Bay Home Entertainment.