By: Erika Ashley
Self-raised in the streets of Panama during the 1960s, Roberto Duran had to fight for everything in his life. He fought for food, money, respect and used his God-given talents and pugnacious nature to learn the art of boxing. With the help from many positive male role models that believed in him, Duran made his way to the top. However, once at the top there is no other way but down and Duran’s fall from grace left him with one only option, to get back up.
Roberto Duran’s legacy and backstory is truly inspirational. Going into this bio-pic quite honestly I barely knew anything about Duran and what he accomplished. Having no frame of reference, I thought this film did a great job at outlining his life long struggle having grown up in poverty in a country that was being over-run by America and his need to be successful in boxing in order to survive. However, after some follow up research I realized that the film’s timeline was a little off but still stayed as true as possible. Just like any time a book or someone’s actual life is put into a film there are bound to be some hiccups for time and story sake.
Edgar Ramírez gave a solid performance during his portrayal of Duran and even Usher Raymond’s reenactment of Sugar Ray Leonard was superb. However, Robert De Niro’s depiction of the late Ray Arcel was tired and rehashed from every other character he has played in the past. It was as if we were just watching De Niro play De Niro but as a boxing coach. It really lacked depth and even though he played an age appropriate role, he came across older than expected and just plain tired. Otherwise the other characters were well developed, and they played true to their parts.
It’s unfortunate that some people will not enjoy this film simply because it does frequently use subtitles due to Duran’s native tongue being Spanish. Which many of the beginning scenes showing Duran’s childhood, and other scenes in Panama, are mainly in Spanish and force the audience that may not speak or understand the language to read. And, most people do not like reading. It did not bother me in the slightest and I actually enjoyed the language difference because it only added to the authenticity of Duran’s story.
Besides the language, I genuinely enjoyed the way the film was shot. The throwbacks to the late 70s and early 80s were done so well. The subtle details were fitting and added just enough as to not be overdone and comical. The sound effects and close ups during the boxing matches drew you in and made it feel real, as if you were sitting ring side. Because the Writer & Director Jonathan Jakubowicz thought each piece through and had a solid foundation to work with he did a good job by representing Roberto Duran and everything that he accomplished. Even though Jakubowicz could very well be a huge fan of Duran, it was not apparent or biased, which is a nice touch.
Overall, Hands of Stone is an uplifting and touching rags to riches story about dedication and perseverance. Exiting the Blockbuster Season there is now room for more serious films to begin popping up in theaters and this film ushers in the Fall viewing as we heat up for Oscar Season in just a couple months. This would be a good Sunday afternoon watch to get you ready for a long work week ahead because it hits you right in the feels but leaves you ready to take on anything.
Hands of stone is rated R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity and has a 105-minute runtime.