There are two types of films that people seem to love. The first is the biopic, which is a motion picture based on real life figures that attract big crowds and awards like Ghandi, The Social Network or Straight Outta Compton. The second is boxing flicks like Rocky, Cinderella Man and most recently Creed that compel our audiences to cheer our on the gutsy fighter as they are pushed to their limits in pursuit of glory. The new film Hands of Stone takes both of these winning formulas and mixes them together to tell the story of the rise and fall of Panamanian boxing legend Roberto Durán.
Now most of the time in our boxing and biopic films, the audience is given an underdog to cheer for as they go through their trials of life. Hands of Stone delivers a dark horse in the form of Durán, but he is anything but quiet and humble. Edgar Ramírez delivers a terrific depiction of the brash and self-destructive fighter that makes the generic Hands of Stone better than it should be. At times you don’t like Durán when he flies off the handle for no reason at his father figure trainer Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro), yet you can never take your eyes off the man even at his lowest points in Hands of Stone. Ramírez breathes so much charisma into the mentally unstable fighter, it’s hard not to root for him, even though he doesn’t deserve it.
Not only does the character drama provide ample entertainment, but the boxing action in Hands of Stone is well done especially in the matches with Durán and boxing icon Ray Leonard portrayed by Usher Raymond. The R & B singer is a dead ringer for Sugar Ray physically and his subtle acting performance captures the smooth champion’s calm demeanor who is the undefeated adversary of Durán. The role of Leonard is limited, but Usher makes the most of his time making an impact on-screen both in and out of the ring.
Besides the boxing in the ring, we also get to witness some great chemistry between Ramírez and De Niro (Who previously worked together in Joy) during the corner scenes as Ray gives Durán advice and tips about gaining the advantage on the mental side of the fight. The trainer and prizefighter bicker like family at times, but they truly care for each other and that’s what gives Hands of Stone it’s all important heart. Durán’s actions at times will have you cringing and even feeling pity, but you understand his thinking even if his life choices lead to career suicide. Director Jonathan Jakubowicz keeps Hands of Stone authentic so be prepared for subtitles, but the turmoil and theatrics will keep your eyes glued to the screen as Edgar Ramirez, Robert De Niro and Usher Raymond supply first-rate interpretations as the combatants at the center of this paint by the numbers boxing biopic.
Overall, I give Hands of Stone 3 out of 4 stars.
Read all T.M.’s reviews here–>Entertainment Now with T.M. Powell