DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

HANDS OF STONE (director/writer: Jonathan Jakubowicz; cinematographer: Miguel Ioann Littin Menz; editor: Ethan Maniquis;  music: Angelo Milli; cast:  Edgar Ramirez (Roberto Duran, Robert De Niro (Ray Arcel), Ana De Armas (Happiness), Usher Raymond IV (Sugar Ray Leonard), Rubén Blades (Carlos Eleta), Pedro 'Budú' Pérez (Plomo), Óscar Jaenada (Chaflan), Reg E. Cathey (Don King), Ellen Barkin (Stephanie Arcel), John Turturro (Frankie Carbo), David Arosemena  (Kid Duran); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Carlos Garcia de Paredes, Claudine Jakubowicz, Jonathan Jakubowicz, Jay Weisleder; A Weinstein Company release of a Fuego Films International; 2016)

"A punch-less Roberto Duran boxing biopic."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A punch-less Roberto Duran boxing biopic, directed and written by the Venezuelan-born Jonathan Jakubowicz  ("Secuestro  Express"). The fight scenes are acceptable, the storytelling is adequate and the acting is competent. But the film is flat, and the characterization of the volatile Panama world lightweight boxing  champ Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez) as a scummy thuggish guy doesn't help. The film is stolen by Robert De Niro as Ray Arcel, his elderly American trainer. The most interesting sequences revolved around corner man Arcel trying to talk strategy to his pig-headed boxer while he sat on a stool between rounds. Nothing else about this generic boxing film stands out. The title is derived from Duran's nickname in the ring.

We follow Duran as a Panama street kid (
David Arosemena) with a hot temper, who quits school to be a boxer under the tutelage of Plomo (Pedro 'Budú' Pérez).  When the kid shows promise of going far in boxing, his manager Carlos ( Rubén Blades) recruits Ray Arcel to train the undisciplined kid. The trainer is currently retired since 1953 due to a spat with the New York mafia. But in 1973 he checks with mob boss Frankie Carbo (John Turturro) for permission to work for free. In an unpleasant street pick-up, the boxer flirts with the blonde high school student Felicidad (Ana De Armas) and marries her after his boxing career takes off. It shows Duran has a hatred for America because it controls the Canal Zone and his American father abandoned him.

The two fights with Sugar Ray Leonard (
Usher Raymond IV) were given mucho film time. In their first fight in Montreal, Duran by a unanimous decision defeated the undefeated WBC welterweight champion and took the crown. After the fight he returned to Panama as a national hero and freely partied. In the second fight his greedy manager signed a $8 million contract with Don King for a 1980 rematch in New Orleans, where an overweight Duran lost weight too fast and quit in the ring by saying No más” for no discernible reason. Duran's sudden downfall and comeback were treated as standard stuff. It failed to make the boxer seem interesting outside the ring, and it seemed the story on Arcel would have made a better film.

REVIEWED ON 9/1/2016       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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