Hands of Stone is a biopic sports drama directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz. It follows the career and life of legendary Panamanian boxer, Roberto Duran. A young Duran learns how to box in order to survive the slums he grew up in. As he is reaching the beginning of his professional boxing career, he is offered to be trained by legendary trainer Ray Arcel. Together they will attempt to change their lives for the better.
When I saw the trailer for Hands of Stone, I was excited at the prospect of there being a film about Roberto Duran. He is one of my favorite boxers and they had a great cast lined up. Edgar Ramirez did a great job of portraying the trash talking Panamanian boxer. Robert De Niro did an equally amazing performance of Ray Arcel. Even Usher was surprising in his role as Sugar Ray Leonard. They were all highlighted in the film and there lies the problem. The central narrative was all over the place. Hands of Stone wanted to be a life story about Roberto Duran and a film about Ray Arcel and an unfinished depiction of the epic trilogy between Duran and Leonard. All 3 arcs could be great films on their own, but in this movie, it’s watered down. Duran’s backstory and other fights he has had in his career aren’t fleshed out and too much focus is put on Ray Arcel. The rest of the film is focused of his fights with Sugar Ray Leonard while interesting, went on too long. That left little to no time to portray the rest of Duran’s life. The script also focused on the politics of the time between Panama and the U.S. It was an interesting thread to the story, but it was very light and unpolished. All the sub plots in fact, detract from the film to convey a cohesive story about Roberto Duran. The rest of the script is pretty much paint-by-numbers. No tension was in the film and the emotional scenes felt too manufactured. The score was great and matched the tone and setting of the film. The worst thing about the film, the action. The boxing scenes weren’t all that appealing. Too stylized, too many cuts, and too many up close shots. The fights felt as if they were trying to mask that it didn’t look believable enough, so they covered it up with heavy editing.
While the various plots could have all each made for a great film, there wasn’t enough time to expand on them in one movie. Hands of Stone is filled with a great cast and some great scenes, but the lack of heart has me sad to watch what could have been an outstanding film. Watch it if you have a love for biopics or boxing films. Just keep your expectations low as Hands of Stone is filled with scenes you may have already seen.
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 1 hr 51 min
Director: Jonathan Jakubowicz
Screenplay: Jonathan Jakubowicz
Cast: Édgar Ramírez, Robert De Niro, Usher, Rubén Blades and Ana de Armas
Producers: Jay Weisleder, Carlos Garcia de Paredes, Claudine Jakubowicz and Jonathan Jakubowicz
Music: Angelo Milli
Cinematography: Miguel Ioann Littin