HANDS OF STONE
Direction: Jonathan Jakubowicz
Actors: Edgar Ramirez, Robert De Niro, Usher
Rating: 3 / 5
A hard-nosed biopic of the Panamanian prizefighter Roberto Duran, Hands of Stone is primarily a showcase for Edgar Ramirez.
The star of Olivier Assayas’s Carlos (2010) delivers a knockout performance as the boxer who achieved worldwide success in the 1970s and ’80s.
Sticking closely to the fight film formula, Venezuelan director Jonathan Jakubowicz (Ships of Hope) chronicles the meteoric rise and equally sudden decline of the world welterweight champion’s career.
After struggling through an impoverished childhood, Duran made his professional debut as an un-fancied teenager.
Amid snapshots of the young man’s hostility towards his new American boxing coach (Raging Bull Oscar-winner Robert De Niro, stepping back into the ring) and his romance with his future wife (played by Ana de Armas), the viewer is offered random glimpses of political upheavals in his country — including the riots over the sovereignty of the Panama Canal.
Most engaging of all, of course, are the recreations of Duran’s epic bouts with Sugar Ray Leonard (played by singer-songwriter Usher). After wresting the welterweight belt from Leonard in 1980, the two brawlers donned gloves again for a historic rematch a few months later. This time, it was Duran who surrendered, infamously pleading ‘No more’, at the end of the eighth round.
The fight scenes have a dramatic intensity that overcomes the occasional longueurs. Also, there are a couple of canny cameos by Ellen Barkin as the coach’s wife, and John Turturo as a mafioso.
This boxing drama is certainly not in the league of Raging Bull, Body and Soul or Ali, but Hands of Stone is nevertheless worth the price of admission.
Watch the trailer for Hands of Stone here