Get the scoop on all the punches and misses of Hands of Stone in this movie review: Was it a TKO or a total flop?
The story of Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran is one that could be made into a unique boxing picture. He rose from poverty to become a champion of his nation, let fame get the better of him and walked away from the ultimate fight of his career. He faced off against the legendary boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and worked with famed coach Ray Arcel. He trained and won at a time when political tensions were tense with the Panama Canal. So why does Hands of Stone appear as just an average boxing movie?
After all, it has a solid cast. Edgar Ramirez makes a decent Roberto Duran with the right amount of pluck and cockiness to go well with his toned body. Robert De Niro fits snugly into the role of Ray Arcel, speaking with an experience that he’s carried over from his days of Raging Bull. Any scene where Ramirez and De Niro share the screen as student and teacher has real power and chemistry. It’s just too bad we don’t get enough of that.
One would think that a picture with two great actors in the two most important roles would become a prime focus. And yet we seem to spend more time with secondary characters to an absurd degree. Don’t think the movie forgot about Sugar Ray Leonard as the picture features plenty of scenes with him not even interacting with Ramirez. For as good a job as Usher does in the role of Sugar Ray, there’s too much of him and not enough for him to do in the many scenes he is featured.
Writer/director Jonathan Jakubowicz stages a picture that never slows down and never settles, as if it were a boxer trying to confuse the audience into being impressed by its all-over-the-place style. Every boxing match is staged more as though it were being shot for a trailer than a movie with dozen of different shots that never let you see the whole fight. The camera gets in close up, whips away, zooms back to a long shot, then a wide shot, another series of close ups and even drunkenly spin around in an overhead shot. It’s almost as if the camera is a third contender in each match.
Pumped up with music and loud blows to the body, Jakubowicz stages these battles as nail-biters, but they don’t really have much tension if you already know the results. In trying to make the fights themselves seem exciting and intense, the director seems to have missed an opportunity to capitalize on the filmmaking potential of such fights. I know how the fight will end, but I don’t know so much about what was going through Duran’s head with each punch. Jakubowicz seems more enamoured with the fight itself than what’s behind the fight.
Read on for the rest of Hands of Stone’s movie review and check out the trailer: