Hands of Stone, released in 2016, is another exceptional movie I have recently watched. It is about the life of Roberto Duran, the Panamanian box champion, a living legend. Unfortunately I have noticed a sort of fury among top film critics regarding this biopic. They say that the screenplay is weak, or that the boxer is a scumbag in a lousy movie. I think that this is an almost unexpected comeback for once talented Robert De Niro, who didn’t cease to surprise me in other recent movie as well, but that’s a story for another time.
[source for all pics unless differently mentioned: imdb.com]
Hands of Stone is a tempestuous colorful story
Roberto Duran is still regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time, he is a four weight world champion who competed over a span of five decades. Now, the movie focuses heavily on the remarkable relationship between Duran and his champion maker trainer Ray Arcel. Duran has also a fierce sense of identity as a native son of Panama, hence his apparent despise for Americans because of their control over the Panama Canal. He had a fierce childhood, dominated by political instability, poverty, fatherlessness.
He fight his way on the streets until he was allowed to train at Plomo’s boxing club. He was noticed by the rich Carlos Eleta, who introduced him to Ray Arcel, a famous trainer founding himself in the hands of box mafia. Roberto Duran met his future wife when she was underage, she was still in High School. It seemed frivolous that she fancied him when she saw him climb in Eleta’s Rolls Royce. He was arrogant, but he was talented. Muhammad Ali was arrogant and talented.
Edgar Ramírez (Carlos, Gold, Joy, The Counselor, Zero Dark Thirty) is Roberto Durán, the main character in this biopic. Robert De Niro is Ray Arcel, the veteran retired trainer. Usher Raymond is a superbly played Sugar Ray Leonard, Duran’s great contender for the lightweight title. Rubén Blades (The Counselor, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) is Carlos Eleta, a rich local boxing manager, unfortunately Roberto Duran’s unscrupulous manager. Ana de Armas (War Dogs, Knock Knock) is Felicidad Iglesias, Duran’s nubile wife. Pedro Perez is Plomo, Hands of Stone’s first and last trainer. Óscar Jaenada is Chaflan, a homeless guy who was somehow Duran’s first mentor, at least on the streets. John Turturro is Frankie Carbo, a mobster who seems to manipulate Ray Arcel and plays a role in the underground of boxing world. Ellen Barkin (Johnny Handsome, Sea of Love, Ocean’s Thirteen) is Arcel’s wise wife, Stephanie Arcel. Jurnee Smollett-Bell is Juanita Leonard, Sugar Ray Leonard’s wife. Drena De Niro (Robert De Niro’s adopted daughter) is Adele, Arcel’s forgotten daughter from another time.
Trailer is a little bit confusing if you don’t know the story. Anyway, if you like to be surprised, enjoy the movie as it is, because it is exceptional.
Hands of Stone premiered at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in May 2016. As you can see below, the original, Roberto Duran, was also invited.
I have to say some more words, beside warmly recommending this movie. After The Intern and Bad Grandpa, I didn’t think of any excuse for Robert De Niro’s irremediably slip to the grossest form of kitsch. You know, a great actor, and until recently, one of my favorites ever, De Niro didn’t seem to have evolved to that patriarch position in Hollywood, he seems to be rather a mercenary for causes whose exponent he has never been: misinterpreted feminism, excessive liberalism, at least apparently. His acting comeback was a pleasant surprise. Another surprise was Usher. Critics bitching Edgar Ramirez, say that Usher’s acting was the best thing in the movie. That’s naughty and it happens because the writer and director, Jonathan Jakubowicz, is Venezuelan, and Roberto Duran (through Ramirez) is overly anti American. Even if people would be more interested in the fights, especially the first one against Robinson, and the “no mas” (one of the most famous association with Roberto Duran in history, the most referred ever) one, the second, distributors did not consider it for heavily advertising. It is also not a politically correct movie, nor feminist.
It is mentioned in the end that Roberto Duran – Hands of Stone – is still friends with Sugar Ray Robinson.
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