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).Written by
"Hands of Stone" (2016 release; 195 min.) is a bio-pic about Panama boxing legend Roberto Duran. as the movie opens, it is"Madison Square Garden, 1971" and we dive straight into a Duran fight, while Ray Arcel (played by Robert de Niro) is checking it out. As Duran makes quick work of his opponent, Arcel's voice over comments "In 66 seconds, Duran changed my life". Arcel is convinced by Duran's manager to train him, to make him the next world champion. We then go to "US Canal Zone, January 9, 1964", as we see little Roberto participate in the social protests surrounding the Panama Canal. At this point we are 10 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this move is written and directed by little known Venezuelan director Jonathan Jakubowicz. The cast is strong, no doubt about it. De Niro gets to play in yet another boxing film, and he knows the ropes (sorry, no punt intended) like no other. A big surprise was to see Ellen Barkin, playing his wife (and now in her early 60s if you can believe it). Another big surprise was to see the role of Sugar Ray Leonard played by none other than the singer Usher, who does quite well in fact. Edgar Ramirez plays Duran convincingly. Some of the boxing scenes are quite good, but there is nothing that you haven't seen before. The movie's big challenge is that the script seems strictly by-the-numbers. There isn't much that comes as a surprise, the movie brings the required romantic interest, etc. It all feels very straight-forward, and hence there was no emotional investment on my part to feel connected to any of this. I was simply watching it, nothing less, nothing more. Last but not least, there was a nice orchestral score, courtesy of composer Angelo Milli.
The movie opened two weekends ago on a handful of screens here in Cincinnati. The Tuesday evening screening where I saw this at was attended okay but not great, which probably is the norm for a weekday evening. "Hands of Stone" certainly isn't bad per se, but neither is it an unexpected pleasant surprise (such as "Creed" last Fall). If you are into boxing, or boxing moves, this is worth checking out, be it in the theater, on Amazon Instant Video or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray.
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