Hands of Stone
Time Out says
As poundingly obvious as a jab to the face, the story of boxer Roberto Durán arrives with zero finesse.
A boxing movie in desperate need of Martin Scorsese (aren’t they all?), Jonathan Jakubowicz’s simplistic biopic of the controversial Panamanian champ Roberto Durán creates a history-for-dummies framework for its narrative—choking poverty, U.S. occupation, geopolitical revenge in the ring—but not enough depth. Durán galvanized the sport with his sheer talent; he also made a premature exit from his 1980 rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard (“No más”), adding a cryptic self-destructive layer to his myth.
The movie needs más—mucho más. As Durán, Edgar Ramírez accesses the playboy arrogance he channeled for Carlos, but he’s stranded by a timid script that doesn’t give him enough private moments. We’re never convinced of Durán’s gamesmanship outside the ring, nor does the script convincingly connect the fighter’s quest for respect with Panama’s anticolonialist struggle for independence. Even the boxing scenes feel paper-thin, like an afterthought (probably a good thing when your antagonist is played by feather-light Usher).
Only Reg E. Cathey—as the oily promoter Don King, savvy to race and showmanship—occupies the adult film this might have been. Robert De Niro does his usual frowny, frumpy thing as cornerman Ray Arcel, but the majority of the film is out of his weight class. Hands of Stone is as generic a version of this story as could have been mustered, protecting Durán’s legacy (Ramírez doesn’t even say “No más” on camera) while squandering an opportunity to explore one of the more complex figures in modern-day sports.
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Cast and crew
Robert De Niro
Ana de Armas