Roberto Duran was the most feared boxer in the world in the late 1970s and early ’80s. Fans and detractors alike described his punching power as hands of stone. Hands of Stone is a biopic based on Duran’s own account of his life.
A buff Edgar Ramirez (Joy) plays the intense Duran. He plays the fighter as a troubled young man unable to shake his poverty-stricken roots. Robert De Niro plays legendary trainer Ray Arcel. From the 1920s through the early 1980s, Arcel trained 18 boxing champions.
After a long period of being Robert De Niro in every movie, De Niro has actually started acting again. Last year, he shined in Joy and The Intern, and here De Niro is the best he’s been in years.
It also helps that Ramirez and De Niro have great chemistry, and both shine as Duran marches toward his battles with Sugar Ray Leonard. Once the movie gets to the first of their two 1980 fights, writer/director Jonathan Jakubowicz’s film loses energy and takes — to use a boxing term — a dive.
Adding to the energy drain is Jakubowicz’s inability to convince you that the actors are fighting.
I saw most of Duran’s fights from the time he won the lightweight championship in 1977 through both battles with Leonard. As for his story, it’s told from a dramatic point of view, so Hands of Stone — especially during the Leonard segment — stretches things a bit.
But it’s his story, so who am I to argue?
‘Hands of Stone’
Director: Jonathan Jakubowicz
Stars: Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez, Usher, Ana de Armas, Ruben Blades, John Turturro, Ellen Barkin
Mr. Movie rating: Rated R for language, nudity, mature themes. It’s playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinema 12 and Queensgate 12, and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.