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It Borrows From the Best
bkrauser-81-31106423 August 2016
Hands of Stone is a rise, fall and rise again story of famed Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran (Ramirez) who leapt into notoriety in the 70's after his first controversial appearance at Madison Square Gardens. By the time of his retirement in 2002 at the age of 50, he had 199 fights under his belt with 103 wins and four titles as a light weight, welter weight, light middle weight and middle weight. The film however focuses on his relationship with legendary boxing trainer Ray Arcel (De Niro) whose own exploits in the boxing world made him the first trainer to be inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame.

Doing a movie of this nature, a couple of questions arise. How do you accurately and intimately make a film about the life and times of Roberto Duran who in addition to being a legend was also a legendary pre-fight s**t talker? How can one best encapsulate the real life of a man who at one point was the guiding light of an entire nation yet had enough of an ego to name all of his male heirs Roberto? Finally, how do you do make that movie great while siphoning off of cues and themes from inspirations like Rocky (1976) and Raging Bull (1980)?

The answer is of course you can't; but you can make a half-way decent film out of everything. And that's basically what director Jonathan Jakubowicz and Bob and Harvey Weinstein have done. It plods its course, steadily paces itself, jab at the appropriate emotional moments and ducks from the energy-sucking minutia that episodic plot-lines tend to have in abundance. Robert De Niro is fine as Ray Arcel giving a spry, worthwhile performance in the same ballpark as Billy Sunday in Men of Honor (2000). Likewise Edgar Ramirez hits all the right notes as our beleaguered hero giving the screenplay a much better performance than it honestly deserves. Ana de Armas, Usher Raymond, Ruben Blades, Oscar Jaenada and Ellen Barkin are all very good with Reg E. Cathey giving a very small but showstopping performance as infamous boxing promoter Don King. Heck even the balance of languages (English and Spanish) is respectfully and organically done. If a great film is three great scenes and no bad ones, then Hands of Stone is 50% of the way there.

Yet much like the underrated Southpaw (2015), it also has no pivotal, never forget scenes or iconic lines. The brightly colored barrios of Panama City and the glitzy sparkle of Las Vegas, not to mention the atmospherics of locker rooms inexplicably filled with smoke, don't really leave an impact. Neither do the stakes of Duran's life which, much like Billy Hope's, was and probably still is filled with conflict, inner-turmoil and a pride that manifests in nationalistic fervor. It's a shame too because if the film decided to explore that aspect of Duran's life, i.e. his relationship to Panama and its people, it could have been unique enough to recommend strongly.

Yet instead, the film doubles down on the "success is ruination" themes picked up by Raging Bull, while kneading out the supposed nobility of a sport in which two grown men beat the crap out of each other. Yet while watching Hands of Stone, I kept hoping they would change up the kinetic, fast-paced editing of the fight sequences with moments that were, say a little more poetic. For those of you who know what I'm insinuating, congratulations you've seen a "great" scene from a "great" movie about boxing.

The best that can be said about Hands of Stone is it does what it does predictably and well, like a cover band that's been around for years. It's energetic, it's fun to watch, it certainly has talented people who put their heart and soul into the project and it plays all the hits...yet it's not the real thing. Oh well, a tin star still shines, a discount belt still buckles and Hands of Stone is still good. Watch it if you must, otherwise watch Rocky again instead.
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Seen better movies on boxing, but a cool portrait of Roberto Duran
subxerogravity29 August 2016
Not exactly what I was expecting at first from a sports movie but in the end it turned out to have the heart I expect from a sports film.

Based on the story of Roberto Duran, a poor street kid from Panama who became that country's symbol of greatest as a boxing champion. It follows his career from his glory days to how his ego caused his fall to his surprising comeback.

Edger Ramirez was fantastic as Duran and Usher Raymond as Sugar Ray Lenard was perfect casting for me hands down.

Also like the connection that Ramirez made with DiNiro who played Ray Arcel. It was very natural them bouncing off one another.

But not the best boxing movie I every seen. Though Ramereiz and Raymond look ready for combat the ring fights could have been better.

Maybe not the point for the film makers as the film documents the rise and fall of a boxing champion that closely mirrors all the other stories of how success corrupts you but if you have the heart and the mindset deep within you you can come back.

Plus the film focus on how Duran's career ran parallel to the state his country was in.

Overall, as a sports movie goes it did not draw me in like they usually do but the outcome was still the same as it plays with my heart to see a man come back from his very worst.

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Hands Of Stone and Hearts of Gold
ricdelrio1 September 2016
Roberto Duran's (Edgar Ramirez) story goes beyond his rise, fall and comeback to the ring. Its shaped by the political turmoil in Panama during the 70's and the early 80's so when he confronts Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher), his stakes are as high as to carry along his nation's pride with him. His trainer Ray Arcel (DeNiro), shapes him from a bully in search for revenge, into a Champion who's at his best after he realizes dignity is much more than just winning the belt. Many have won fights but few fighters have won the respect of their foes as did Duran and Sugar Ray back in the days. True heroes with Hands Of Stone and Hearts of Gold.
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A visit in time through boxing
sinnerofcinema26 August 2016
Hands of Stone is a pleasant surprise for those willing to regress in time to experience the heights of boxing. Way before internet, there was a time and a place when events like boxing happened, specially when Roberto Duran fought, Panama would come to a stand still. Everyone was tuned into their television for the occasion. When he won, you would hear the country erupt in glee of victory with people sounding their pots & pans. The film showcases those days in an adequate manner. Yes there is the usual clichés happening, but the film's energy transcends those usual predictable story plot point to keep you engage enough to care for the characters. The time capsule through the production design and soundtrack made this film a delight to watch. There is a vast array of subliminal messages from the director, Well come to think of it, its not so subliminal as you see in the ring corners advertising to "Invest in Venezuela". Im sure this obvious product placement was a plea by the director and/or the Venezuelan team working on the film for the audience to take notice of the current situation Venezuelans are living. This strategy has been duly noted. The international cast serves the film well and brings the essence of Duran journey to life. Ruben Blades vintage soundtracks adds an unequal energy to the scenes boosting the film above your usual boxing flick. Hands of Stone is better served watching it on the big screen to truly appreciate the scope of the film.
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'No mas'
gradyharp15 December 2016
Writer/director Jonathan Jakubowicz has captured the true story of Panamanian boxer Roberto Durán and has been able to turn this rags to riches to dissipation and back story into far more than just a boxing story. This is a film that focuses on the interpersonal and professional relationship between a fighter and his trainer and it works well.

The story is a rise, fall and rise again story of legendary Panamanian boxer Roberto Durán (Edgar Ramírez) who climbed into notoriety in 1968 as a 16 year old in his first controversial appearance at Madison Square Gardens. In June 1980, he defeated Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond) 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): he was retiring from boxing. By the time of his actual retirement in 2002 at the age of 50, he had 199 fights under his belt with 103 wins and four titles as a lightweight, welterweight, light middleweight and middleweight. The film however focuses on his relationship with legendary boxing trainer Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro) whose own exploits in the boxing world made him the first trainer to be inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame.

The cast is splendid – and in addition to Ramirez, Raymond, and De Niro there are fine supporting roles by Ana de Armas as Roberto's wife, Rubén Blades as Carlos Eleta, John Turturro as Frankie Carbo, Pedro Perez as Plomo, and Ellen Barkin as De Niro's wife, and Reg E. Cathey as Don King.

For boxing fans and for those who respect the history of sports this film is a must. But beyond the boxing and historical aspects, the interacting between Ramírez and De Niro is richly rewarding and Oscar worthy performances. Grady Harp, December 16
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Great movie with focus
wepollock-682-57598613 September 2016
Boxing provides cover for a character study of several interesting and intersecting personalities who are motivated by different things, events, culture, and history. Those looking for Rocky, Ali, or an old time boxing flick might be disappointed with the lack of drama. However, it can be more interesting to know why people are doing things rather than how they are doing them. Detracting from the film was the directors use of soft focus most of which frankly was out of focus, literally out of focus. I don't know why anyone would shoot an entire movie with close-ups that are slightly out of focus. Nevertheless the dialogue the story the characters and their motivations were conveyed with interest and clarity. Give me a movie with "too many words "any day as opposed to movies with special-effects in a linear plots. This movie provides us with the study of real life, and real people flaws and all.
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Get into the ring with this elevated boxing film
ccorral41931 August 2016
Caracas, Venezuela, born Director/Writer/Producer Jonathan Jakubowicz (Secuestro express - 2005), along with producing wife Claudine (Epicentral Studios) leap from the Latin film arena to tell the true story of the raise/fall and raise again of showy Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran, portrayed by the outstanding Edgar Ramirez (Zero Dark Thirty). With childhood sweetheart Felicidad (Ana de Armas - War Dogs) by his side, Duran (known as "Manos de Piedra" Hands of Stone) claims the WBC welterweight title in 1980 over state-side favorite Sugar Ray Leonard (well portrayed by the at times too pretty Usher - The Voice), only to later utter the words "No mas" (no more), walking away from a rematch. Superbly guiding Duran through his life/career is training great Ray Arcel (the always terrific Robert De Niro), money man Carlos (Ruben Blades - Safe House) and childhood funny man Chaplain (Oscar Jaenada - Cantinflas). While several side stories are briefly presented, they help Jakubowicz elevate the film from just a boxing movie. Music by Angelo Mili, cinematography (Miguel Loann Litton Menz), costumes (Bina Daigeler) and set decoration by Denise Camargo and Amy Williams (especially the Disco scene) bring the film to life. Reg E. Cathey (Don King) and the younger Duran (David Arosemena) have nice smaller roles, as does one of my all time favorites Ellen Barkin (Animal Kingdom) as Ray's wife. "Get into the ring" with this elevated boxing film.
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Excellent Film made with the Passion of true Fighters
ricdelrio-481195 September 2016
Hands of Stone story is exceptionally accurate and it's extraordinary characters are played by a top notched cast.

Lured by Roberto Duran's (Edgar Ramirez) raw passion as a fighter, Ray Arcel, played by a chameleonic Robert De Niro, comes back to the champ's corner after ten years forced sabbatical. Duran reluctantly accepts Arcel's guidance but quickly recognizes the old trainer's wisdom and takes it by heart, this results in an improbable win against Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher) and it is him, who will teach Duran a lesson that will make him a true champion.

Beyond the history, Duran's story is both poignant and complex, filled with amazing victories on the ring but also many defeats on his personal life. Only thru the love of his family, the respect of his foes and the guidance of his trainer is that, through defeat, he becomes a real champion.

Great Cast, Script, Photography and Production Design, spanning two decades of political turmoil Hands of Stone is hands down a movie with a heart of gold.
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Though I was one of those US soldiers in Panama who Duran hated, I still love this film
socrates9913 December 2016
The sad thing is, this is a movie that every American should see and understand, but that that is almost impossible, there's just too much disinformation standing between us and the truth.

This is not a big film but that Robert De Niro was willing to lend his considerable talents to it speaks volumes about its worth. The story is a true one more than difficult to find in news reports at the time and so all the more jarring when told with the passionate clarity that it gets here.

I admit I have a very personal point of view about this movie. I was stationed in Panama when Duran was fighting. I wish I could have seen him fight, but the closest I came was being outside a stadium and being stunned at the uproar coming from it. I asked someone what was going on and they said Roberto Duran was fighting. Roberto was more than just a fighter to Panamanians, he was their hero. The Chorrillo district he grew up in was mostly slum. To come up from such poverty seems more than heroic to anyone familiar with the area, it's downright miraculous.

As Ray Arcel, his trainer, said, Roberto had some of the best instincts he'd ever seen. He was a natural fighter. His weakness was he was also a man prone to excess and excessive pride and the film does not shrink from those flaws. But to its credit it also doesn't shrink from putting the US in a less than admirable light.

There's more that isn't mentioned in this film, such as the highly suspicious way General Torrijos, president of Panama, died, or the extensive prostitution our military base promotes which Roberto would have witnessed. Still this movie is a vast improvement over the usual way Hollywood portrays Central America.

The acting is excellent throughout though I especially enjoyed Ana de Armas' portrayal of Roberto's wife, Felicidad, for the memories it gave me.
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Beautiful Movie!
diazaraceli5 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This movie reminds me of the Venezuelan telenovelas I used to watch as a child.(Venezuelan telenovelas were world renown, They used to be transmitted here in the U.S., before Hugo Chavez shut down RCTV!) How the film makers were able to jam pack an entire "telenovela" into an hour and a half is amazing! I won't ruin the movie for you, but this movie has everything! Love! Abandonment! Eating disorders! Language barriers! Learning disabilities. Social inequality! Racial issues! Organized crime! Politics! A little bit of boxing! But, mostly love and music. Lots of music. I need to buy the soundtrack, when it comes out! It's funny and sad, all at the same time.

SPOILER ALERT: You would think this movie was only for the guys, but it is actually a chick flick in disguise! Edgar Ramirez is gorgeous and in perfect shape! Plus, you get to see Usher's derriere!
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maskbehindmask26 August 2016
As a kid I would watch boxing matches with my grandfather. I remember asking him; "Do they ever just quit?" He went on to tell me the story of a man this film is based on. Hands Of Stone chronicles the chaotic life and career of former Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran, as seen through the eyes of his trainer. While it is visually similar to most boxing movies, it's about real people who lived very real lives, that happen to revolve around boxing. At times it plays like a documentary. Taking the viewer on an emotional roller coaster ride with it. There is limited time for character development. The cuts are quick and the story moves right along, much like the rounds of a boxing match.
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By-the-numbers script holds back the movie
paul-allaer13 September 2016
"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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Not Great But Descent Boxing Movie
stevendbeard27 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I saw "Hands of Stone", starring Edgar Ramirez-Joy, The Bourne Ultimatum; Robert De Niro-Joy, Grudge Match; Usher Raymond IV-Muppets Most Wanted, Moesha_tv; Ana De Armas-War Dogs, Knock Knock and Ruben Blades-Fear The Walking Dead_tv, Predator 2.

This is a boxing movie. Not a great one but a fairly descent one. The title refers to the nickname given to boxer Roberto Duran-his hands were like stone because he punched so hard. This is the story of Roberto and how he rose to fame. He started fighting as a kid around 8 years old. He fought professionally at 16-this was in 1968. He grew up in Panama where he grew to hate America. Mainly, because of how they treated the Panamanian citizens but also because his father was an American that deserted him and his mother and went back to the States. Edgar plays Roberto. Ruben plays Edgar's trainer. Robert plays a famous boxing trainer that Ruben gets to help train Edgar-whom Edgar hates, by the way, because he is an American. Ana plays the love interest that becomes Edgar's wife and Usher plays Sugar Ray Leonard. The movie covers the 1980's fights between Edgar and Usher, including how one boxer got out of fighting shape between their fights, causing him to lose the match. As the end credits start, they tell you what happened to the people and what they are doing now-if they are still alive. It's rated "R" for language, violence and sexual content-including nudity-and has a running time of 1 hour & 45 minutes. It's not a great boxing movie-it seems like I've seen a lot of this stuff in other boxing movies-but it is descent. I don't think I would buy it on DVD but it would be a good rental.
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ab-23-4477073 December 2016
While this is essentially a boxing film it's also a decent biopic covering Roberto Durán's life from his childhood growing up in poverty in Panama through his boxing career and rise to wealth and fame. It, while superficially, also touches on the Panama–United States relations from the 1960's onward and their effects on Durán's attitude to life and the United states.

The films focus on American imperialism towards Panama is quite an interesting sub plot as US military is shown interacting with the Panamanian population in full Battle of Algiers mode and creating a level of anti-US hostility which having been there a couple of times can still be found today.

The story is told at a good pace and doesn't get bogged down on any one area, both De Niro & Ramirez deliver good performances as does Ellen Barkin as Arcel's wife, probably the only downside is Sugar Ray Leonard who comes off looking like a fool for most of the movie but overall it's a great movie and offers plenty of human interest elements to those who aren't boxing fans.

After watching the terrible Back in the Day the other week I'd happily give this a 8/10
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Roberto Duran and Ray Arcel were good for boxing and even better for the historians
Ed-Shullivan23 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I love boxing films and even more so when the film is based on a true story in which the director portrays the sports hero(s) experiencing every day peoples' lows and highs that we should be able to relate to. Within the first 15 minutes of the film I was captivated with Roberto Duran, the child, the man, and ultimately the boxer with unlimited talent and an insatiable hunger to win a boxing world championship.

The three main characters in the film are the Panama born boxer Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez), his world class trainer Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro) and Duran's main contender in his way for a world championship Sugar Ray Leonard (singer Usher Raymond).

It is near impossible to capture such a boxing legend whose professional career spanned over five decades, 119 fights, 103 wins, of which 70 of those wins were by knockouts and then attempt to describe in any real level of detail of this mans true history in less than two hours of screen time. So for any of those other critical reviews that stated Hands of Stone just wasn't a box office success I say who cares? What matters is this film portrays a young Panamanian boy whose early life was filled with resentment for Americans who kept his people behind a wall in their own country, an American man who is his father and then deserted Roberto's young mother leaving her to raise her children alone.

Roberto Duran's documented resentment for the country U.S.A. and its citizens may not sit well with many American movie viewers which may account for lower than expected turnouts at the box office but his story is real, and a difficult one. He had a very hard life growing up in Panama, and so boxing was his ticket out. Duran feared no one, and by the time he entered the ring as a lightweight in June 1972 to fight Ken Buchanan, his destiny was about to come true. The film indicated that there was some controversy over Duran potentially hitting Buchanan below his belt line, but as there was controversy that followed Duran throughout his 33 year fighting career in and out of the ring Duran became a world champion, won and lost over the decades to follow.

Robert De Niro who played the famous boxing trainer Ray Arcel allowed actor Edgar Ramirez to be the screens main focus so I give kudos to the mega star for accepting his supporting actor role as a mentor to Duran continually explaining to Roberto Duran that he had all the god given talent required, he just had to convince himself in his own mind that he was unbeatable. Obviously De Niro had a positive affect on Edgar Ramirez's screen performance as I for one, believed these two were the real fighter and trainer.

As for the actual in ring fights between Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez) and Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond) I have seen better fight sequences such as in the classic Oscar winning Raging Bull and the Rocky film compilations, so I was glad more time was spent outlining the man Roberto Duran outside of the ring, rather than with trying to emulate Duran's fighting technique.

Additional good performances were displayed by Ruben Blades who played Duran's wealthy boxing agent Carlos Eleta, and minor but important roles by John Turturro playing New York boxing kingpin Frankie Carbo, Ellen Barkin who played Stephanie Arcel and Reg E. Cathey as bigger than life boxing promoter Don King.

On a personal note the naked love scenes in this film took away from the films intention as a sports biography film and I believe if they had edited these gratuitous scenes out I am quite sure there was sufficient material more relevant to Duran's history that was left behind on the cutting room floor that would have added greater value than a bit of T&A.

Overall the performances by Edgar Ramirez, Robert De Niro and Usher Raymond were top notch. I recommend Hands Of Stone for not only boxing fans, but fans of films that display poverty stricken characters rising to fame and fortune, and doing well by their rewards by sharing their fortunes with the less fortunate as Roberto Duran, world champion, has accomplished throughout his life.

Scoring a 9 out of 10 rating. CHAMPIONS ALL!!
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Excellent, feel good movie!
wandraligia15 September 2016
Wonderful, heartfelt, feel good movie about Roberto Duran and his amazing trainer. The cast is spot on and the performances are memorable. The boxing is realistic and done with such style it makes you understand what it feels to be on top of the ring. These boxers did it all for honor, country and family, and when Duran strays its his honor, his love for his country and his family what brings him back to become a champion again. Everything in Hands Of Stone is true to life, the spectacular boxing matches, the political tension, the commercial interests behind the matches and even the mob in the background, this is a complex movie. Duran finally learns his lessons from Sugar Ray Leonard and Ray Arcel who are both described as the gentlemen that made Boxing a true sport.

Great movie, so glad I saw it on the screen.
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Boxing. History. Biographies. Drama.
gemandeye19 March 2017
Yes, this is a boxing movie. However, it's not really just about boxing or a boxer. It is about world famous boxer Roberto Duran and has some fight scenes that are done with realism. The movie pays more focus on the man himself and a spectacular role played by Robert DeNiro As Ray Arcel, world famous fight trainer. The relationship between the two is one many probably didn't know. It also explores the conflict that occurred in Panama, Duran's home country, and how that shaped his views and behavior. It shows both the political side and economic side of the struggle in that country during those times. Edgar Ramirez once again shows his versatility and some how can manage to transform his age depending on the role he plays, as Roberto Duran. The rest of the cast is top notch including John Tuturro, even though not a lot of screen time, as a mafia boss. On that note it also delves into the corruption of the sport from it's inception to it's world wide fame. This is not Rocky or Raging Bull but if y0u like true boxing movies and like history you will no doubt enjoy this film.
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Better than Metacritic says, very accurate to the IMDb score...
Neil-M0915 January 2017
For a biographical movie is good, mainly because, unlike to others in this genre, the actors speaks in the languages of the real people they portraits. But for a boxing movie, at times fails with the romantic drama scenes but mainly for the over egocentric personality of the main character, Roberto Durán. Also the script doesn't show the public enough matches. The highlights of the film, obviously, is Edgar Ramirez performance, but in my opinion, gives me a mixed perspective...in one hand, a confident and charismatic Durán, in the other hand, sadly, a man who blames his father for leaving his family and uses that as an excuse for his hate to U.S.A. is kinda annoying, also he thinks he's unstoppable even with his coach, Ray Arcel, played by Robert de Niro. Despite all this, the simple script is saved by some aspects. One is the costume design, because the movie occurs in many years, and the clothes tells us the time In which the characters live. The good technical aspects, like photography, sound mixing and editing, and film editing too, gives the film a better look. In overall, this movie is better enjoyed if you seek a mix between sports, drama and romance but not at its best.
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A history lesson disguised as a boxing movie.
GoneWithTheTwins_com25 August 2016
In 1971, Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez) fights at Madison Square Garden - an incredible accomplishment at a notable venue, considering Duran's humble origins. The eventual lightweight champion's story is narrated by his legendary trainer, Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro), a man who helped thousands of boxers master the sport, and who now must teach the kid strategy and discipline to become a true winner. And taking into account De Niro's own expertise with boxing movies, it's difficult not to trust everything he says about the up-and-comer. But despite star power, a respectable budget, and suitable performances, the film is an utter failure when it comes to visual style, technical execution, and storytelling.

The first problem is the narrative, which alternates between the past and the present, hoping to shed some light on the traumatic events that shaped each player. But it goes too far, wasting time on Arcel's personal drama (including estrangement from a daughter) while also focusing pointlessly on the supporting characters that interact with him. This should be Duran's story, but quite routinely, it pays unnecessary attention to Arcel, promoter Carlos Eleta (Ruben Blades), wiseguy Frankie Carbo (John Turturro), childhood pal Chaflan (Oscar Jaenada), and even the primary opponent, Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond). This is especially detrimental when Duran inevitably falls from grace; it allows the audience to lose interest in - and concern for - the antihero at the heart of it all, since there are so many other characters to follow. Even Roberto's wife Felicidad (Ana de Armas) is more sympathetic and believable (she's also featured in the only amusing scene, involving pleasurable intercourse that shifts into torturous childbirth).

All of the cutting back and forth in the timeline is dreadfully commonplace - as well as irritating - lending to the feeling that this biographical yarn is so familiar and clichéd that twisting up its chronology must surely confuse audiences into thinking that it's modern and fresh. This leads into the second problem: "Hands of Stone" quickly becomes a history lesson disguised as a boxing movie.The 1964 Panama Canal Zone rioting was a significant, potent piece of a longstanding territorial conflict, but it just doesn't fit seamlessly into a film about Duran's rise and fall in the ring. The idea of fighting his whole life becomes comically downplayed when he's shown to literally begin streetfighting as a preteen on the poverty-ridden streets of El Chorrillo, before receiving more formal training by a coach at a local gym. And then there's time for a love story, which follows the typical course of recklessness with wealth and eventually drunken abuse.

It's not enough to be an inspirational sports drama anymore - and definitely not when it comes to boxing, which has seen a tremendous quantity of theatrical efforts in the last few years alone. Just like Duran's immoral choices when it comes to psychological warfare and his motives for controversially (and famously) stopping his rematch against Leonard (depicted here to involve unscrupulous actions by a greedy agent and a mental defeat rather than overconfident slacking), "Hands of Stone" seems to have been made for all the wrong reasons. At times it's a bit of patriotic propaganda for Panama (it regularly resembles advertising or promotion instead of entertainment); at others it's an account of a detestable athlete, incapable of handling riches and celebrity - and certainly written poorly enough that he's irredeemable as a hero (a penultimate redemption bout is portrayed to be painfully trivial). Audiences are also supposed to believe (inconceivably) that this hotheaded brute used superior intelligence to distract his nemesis, rather than merely spitting out insults in the heat of the moment.

In its hastiness to chronicle the singular Panamanian star, the film also can't be bothered with acceptable editing and structuring techniques; fades, cuts, fight choreography, and transitions betray severely amateurish efforts. Sequences are included out of expectation, not creativity; training montages, the segueing of rounds, and even sex/nudity appear because the filmmakers think these moments are anticipated - or required. For viewers unaware of the 1980 "Brawl in Montreal" and the rematch that followed later in the same year, "Hands of Stone" at least presents an unexpected (though not entirely satisfying) third option to that age-old dilemma of any pugilist showdown: the protagonist can only win or lose, and both choices have been previously, repeatedly committed to celluloid.

  • The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)
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Not terrible, but unfocused
baileykerr18 August 2016
By the last half an hour mark of Hands of Stone, I was thinking about my grocery list. By the last ten minutes, I was checking my watch to see how much longer it would be until I could use the restroom. As I watched this movie, I was sure of what the film was going for. It was trying to be a typical inspirational sports movie about the little guy who starts out with a big ego and nothing but the clothes on his back who becomes somebody that the kiddies can look up to. What I was unsure of was how the film chose to get there. This is the cinematic equivalent of a Pinball game. Story starts here, goes over there for a few seconds, shoots to the top for a second, falls down to the bottom in a flash, while there is little aim or consistency in the game-play.

The film starts as famous boxer trainer, Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro), walks into the sepia-lit boxing ring of Madison Square Garden. He is there to observe Panamanian competitor Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez) at the request of his manager. Arcel is there to make Roberto a "champion" as Roberto is described as "wild" and in need of direction. He is a highly skilled boxer, but is somehow not champ material for reasons that we ironically do not see until later. Why ironically? Because the whole reason Ray Arcel is supposed to train him is to get Roberto's career on track, yet somehow causes his social-thereby professional-decline as the movie goes on. I have seen plenty of biopics where at some point the lead character falls on hard times and needs reassurance to never give up (half the time, that's why they have a lead love interest). But I have never seen a biopic where the character falls into that state because of the very reason that is supposed to make him better and inspirational to the audience. From my point of view, that makes Hands of Stone fairly pointless. Maybe even more like the plot to an episode of South Park than to a Hollywood sports movie.

But back to the game of Pinball. Let me preface this little analysis by acknowledging that the screenwriter/director Jonathan Jakubowicz evidently knew a great deal about the lives of these characters out of passion for their stories. The problem was either he was attempting to put focus on too many little aspects that he in the long run he should have cut or he started with a longer, more flowing narrative and cut too much of what he should have kept in order to shorten the running time. Instead of a story propelled by the relationship of Duran and Arcel, we got maybe five scenes of the two of them during Duran's training and a hundred other scenes that did not add up to anything.

Case in point, in the beginning of Duran's training with Arcel, Arcel takes the time to explain the difference between technique and strategy. As Arcel describes it, technique is the name for how you implement strategy and strategy is the overall battle plan for the fight. In a later scene, we see a little bit of what Arcel is talking about. During their first fight as a team, Duran goes to the corner of the ring to take a break and get coached like any other boxer. But right before he continues the fight, Arcel always combs back Duran's hair. Why is this? We find out later that it's to make Duran look like he "just got out of the shower"; if he looks "fresh" during a fight, it will drive the other fighter crazy every time. "Ahh strategy" Duran replies impressed.

These are the kinds of scenes and moments that the film should have spent more time with. Instead, we got the obligatory love interest, an out-of-nowhere hospital scene, an unnecessary death scene, a sub-conflict with the mafia, a meeting of the long-lost father scene, and hundreds of other moments that added up to nothing substantial leaving for a confused and boring product.

If I were to watch this movie again, it would be for one reason; the boxing scenes. Here is where the direction and cinematography truly shine. The pacing, the editing, and the acting are all exactly appropriate to reflect Duran's frame of mind during each individual fight. In the beginning when he is confident (bordering on conceited) of his ability, the pacing is quick yet the shots are observant. And when Duran hits his lowest professional point, the shots are longer, slower, but still carrying the same level of intensity. I would love to put this movie on again for those scenes alone, I would just keep the fast forward button nearby.

For more movie reviews, check out my blog, Art Scene State at the following link http://cinemasmarts.blogspot.com/
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No Mas
Prismark1021 March 2017
The first time I saw Roberto Duran fight was the Duran v Leonard fight...... Part 2. Where Sugar Ray Leonard was showboating, doing the Ali shuffle and basically humiliating Duran. I turned to my older brother and said that Duran is a bit rubbish only to be met with a reply, he is the world champion and usually a bit of a an animal but Leonard is on another plane tonight.

Hands of Stone tells the story of Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez) told through the eyes of veteran trainer Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro.) Ramirez is frankly to old for the teenage Duran, a wild kid brought up in poverty in Panama who becomes maybe the best lightweight ever.

Duran took two big money fights with Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher) the golden boy of boxing and Duran won the first fight by taunting Leonard to brawl with him, a mistake Leonard did not make the second time.

Still Duran came back after this defeat where he allegedly said 'no mas' and quit the fight. Duran would go on to become world champion in two further weight divisions.

A lot of the film is actually in Spanish for the Panama based scenes, it is a competent and entertaining film of a legendary boxer who retired from boxing at the age of 50 in 2002.

There is nothing in the film though that elevates it to greatness. If you have De Niro in the cast and it is a boxing film your mind turns to Raging Bull, a landmark boxing film. This is not in that league.
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Hands of Stone
Argemaluco14 November 2016
I have never been interested in boxing, but I remember having heard Roberto Durán's name during the '70s and '80s. And now, we have a biography of his in the shape of the film Hands of Stone, which is moderately interesting, even though it's constantly interrupted by multiple tangents dividing the audience's attention and obstructing the flow of the narrative. Hands of Stone didn't only aim at explaining Durán's motivation and his complicated personality, but also the historical and economic context of the decades through which his boxing career was developed. It's an undoubtedly ambitious task... but some moderation would have helped to focus the attention into the genuinely important aspects. I think that, with a more judicious edition, the movie would have felt more natural without losing the character's interesting details. Édgar Ramírez and Robert De Niro bring good performances as Durán and his trainer (respectively), but I would also like to mention the competent works from the supporting cast, highlighting Rubén Blades, Usher Raymond, Reg E. Cathey, John Turturro and Ana de Armas. As for the boxing scenes, I frankly didn't find them very exciting; I found them very inferior to the ones I saw in Creed early this year. In some place of Hands of Stone, there's a solid biography hidden; unfortunately, it's difficult to find it between so many urban drama, political conflicts and domestic arguments. The film Hands of Stone should have followed the example of the authentic Hands of Stone: hitting very hard on a specific point, without getting distracted by opponent's tricks. Well, it's not an ideal metaphor, but, as I previously said, I don't know very much about boxing.
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When the question is Robert De Nero and the theme is boxing this is a ordinary movie with a very confusing story line......
fillerruth16 August 2016
Robert De Nero is one of my favorite actors and he is a great actor. He already won two Oscars and nominated for at least 5 times. This movie's theme is boxing and this a biography movie. So my expectation was very high and for me, it is a highly anticipated movie because Robert de Nero starring Raging bull is also a boxing- themed movie which's success is known by all. But this movie is pathetic. Total mess and very poor performance by all the lead cast.

I think the biggest flaw of this movie is the script. very poorly written and may be not researched well by its contents. It is a biography movie and there are lots of opportunities to show plots and subplots with interesting incidents. You have to choose the best true incidents with transparent history, not the fantasy. But there are no such things in this movie which will be interesting or transparent.

The most important thing of a sports biography movie is its twist or the turning points which are completely missing in this movie. The story writer surely missed the opportunities to show the actual suspense and the originality. This is the story of Roberto Durán Samaniego (born June 16, 1951), he is a Panamanian former professional boxer regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time his nickname is "Manos de Piedra" ("Hands of Stone"). He won many historic matches and in these matches, there are lots of thrill and suspense. At least 15 incidents in his life are happened which are turning points of his career and for his life also. I cannot spoil this and cannot reveal for the known reason. The script and the screenplay are written in a very lazy way and they missed these incidents. The direction is not up to the mark and the director completely failed to maintain the pace which is very important for a biographical drama movie. The script is poorly written and at least 5-6 times I failed to follow the subplot. Content could have been better and the theme is very confusing for realizing and several subplots created over the top impacts.

Watch at your own risk and It will be good if you expect nothing from this biographical drama.
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Chronic Miscasting
tonymikejoe20 November 2016
The film never recovers from my reluctance to accept the actor in the title role as Roberto Duran.

The genuine boxer was a small, skinny rat-like character in his early lightweight days.

However, the actor is tall, strapping, chisel-jawed and above all far too clean-cut to pull off the sinister Duran persona.

I also do not buy the 'pretty boy' Sugar Ray Leonard character because 1) the actor looks like he's about forty years-old and 2) he's not good-looking.

I wanted to see filth, poverty, violence in Duran's early days because this is what I've heard his background is, but where was the grit? the pain?

Nobody else is going to make a film about this legendary boxer so we are stuck with this disappointing effort.
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B-class movie at best
janzjaniny27 November 2016
for everyone out there hoping for yet another solid 'boxing movie' - there is something wrong with this one from the get go - the way the characters are introduced and the events start to take shape seems just odd.

first of all, there is no single likable character, which is kinda odd given how 'easy' it is to work on the well known pattern of a rookie who - despite various odds - aspires for the greatness. both Duran and Arcel appear like strangers to each other, there is absolutely no chemistry between the two, and arguably, no sort of drawing you to the action as it just runs along.

there's no suspense or agitation either. the way the events are shown reminds me of going through a photo album or a (rather shallow though full of nice pictures) reportage in a newspaper. during the whole film I had no sense of involvement with characters or the events whatsoever.

so what went wrong? well, mr. Jakubowicz - the director - clearly wasn't up to the task. in many moments it feels very amateur-ish, take the way the 'meeting/falling in love' moments, the night club scenes or Duran's flashbacks are filmed. I just face-palmed with disbelief it's actually a serious movie with ambitions and not an Asylum production.

the script also doesn't provide us with much. it sort of rolls on like you know it would, the events just 'happen' and the characters just 'act' on them - often God knows why. as I said none of main characters is even remotely interesting, and some seem to serve no purpose at all (like the mob boss played by Torturro). and the ending - there should be a separate place in hell for filmmakers who end their flicks so cluelessly.

being a huge fan of 'fighter' movies and series (Ali, Warrior, Kingdom) I'm staggered how one could have so much on paper - nice story, decent characters, very solid actors - and actually turned it all into a tasteless mush.

seriously, it's not worth your time and don't kid yourself De Niro's presence at least guarantees some level of decency. it doesn't, better go watch Ali again or just have an evening walk. it's that bad..
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