Movie Review: The Weinstein Company's Hands of Stone - #HandsOfStone

Hands of Stone
Release Date: August 26th 2016
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Biopic | Action | Sports | Drama
Directed by: Jonathan Jakubowicz
Written by: Jonathan Jakubowicz
Produced by: Jay Weisleder, Jonathan Jakubowicz, Carlos Garcia De Paredes, Claudine Jakubowicz
Starring: Edgar Ramirez, Robert De Niro, Usher, Ruben Blades, Ellen Barkin, John Turturro, Oscar Jaenada, Ana de Armas
HANDS OF STONE follows the life of Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez), the Panamanian fighter who made his professional debut in 1968 as a 16 year-old and retired in 2002 at the age of 50. 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 their November rematch, famously saying the words “no mas” (no more.)

Biopics come in all shapes and sizes.  It used to be that only those who lived a remarkable life were worthy of the effort.  These days, all it takes a remarkable event.  A shocking event will suffice.  It has gotten so that Hollywood biopics are less about the people and more about the events.  Thankfully, the week’s biopic, Hands of Stone, accomplishes to tell the story of the events and the man, boxer Roberto Duran,  well.  The movie plays with a ton of heart and makes for an entertaining view.
From beginning to end, Hands of Stone is oozing with Panamanian pride.  I appreciated that the film was respectful to the culture and the people of Pamana.  So many times, I have seen movies that poke fun of forieign cultures. This isn’t that.  The culture, the people, the sentiment are all presented in a tasteful and respectful way.  The historical period covered during the life of Roberto Duran was, at times, tumultuous.  The United States is portrayed as being a source of frustration, almost oppression, for the local Panamanians.  That’s real.  I believe that events actually happened the way that the film portrayed the events.  It didn’t feel like the Panamanian’s frustrations were whitewashed or down-played.  I even appreciated that the Americans and the United States was shown in a less than positive light.  For better or worse, it is all a part of American history.
The script and the story of Hands of Stone bounce around like a boxer in a fight.  The plot was either running or standing still.  Parts I wanted to go faster didn’t and parts I was done with lingered too long on screen.  Felt somewhat uneven, if it wasn’t done on purpose.  If it was, then, it’s genius.  Either way, there is definiently enough good in the story to make it an enjoyable experience.  I would have liked to see more about Duran’s early career and his family dynamic.  It takes real effort to become the fighter that Duran was.  I would have liked to see some of that.  I could have done with less on the Sugar Ray Leonard fight.  After all, that series of fights is not really what defined Roberto Duran.
Edgar Ramirez portrays Roberto Duran.  I enjoyed the performance.  I am used to seeing Ramirez play a thug or thug-like roles. Here, Ramirez played as Duran as a great combination of part thug and part hero.  The entire cast was really great.  I think they managed to carry the film farther than it should have gone given some script issues. Robert DeNiro never disappoints.  I loved him as a humble, quieter, sort as Ray Arcel .  I’m used to seeing DeNiro as larger than life, and I appreciated how unassuming DeNIro played the aging Arcel.  I would have liked to see more of Arcel's life, given his contributions to boxing. I have no complaints about any of the cast except for Usher’s portrayal of Sugar Ray Leonard. I don't feel that Usher's acting abilities are big screen ready.

Hands of Stone is a great movie. It is genuinely a fun boxing movie and a compelling story which younger generations might not otherwise know. It's one of my favorite sports films. The action and cast played wonderfully on the big screen. Through the ups and downs, I couldn't help but to root for Duran. See Hands of Stone at a theater near you starting Friday

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