The Robert Duran bio-pic Hands of Stone wants to tell the story of the Panamanian pugilist, but keeps tripping over itself with unnecessary political overtones. The boxing seems to be the background in a film that focuses mainly on Duran’s personal life and his venomous hatred for authorities, America, and Americans in general. The film amplifies these and other unsavory aspects of Duran’s personality in a story that has been chopped into episodic interludes.
Rising from a harsh upbringing running wild in the streets of Panama Robert Duran (Édgar Ramírez) discovers boxing. At first he fights on the street for food or petty change, but his potential catches the eye of Plomo Quiñones (Pedro Pérez) a noted trainer in the area. Duran’s progress as a fighter leads to the inclusion of Carlos Eleta (Rubén Blades) a promoter who is a big fish in the small pond of boxing in Panama. Eleta calls on retired American trainer Ray Arcel (Robert DeNiro) to guide Duran and help break him into the New York fight scene.
Arcel is hesitant after having been run out of the business by mob figures two decades earlier. But the old man decides that Duran may be his last chance to coach a world champion. Ray brokers a deal with mafia boss Frankie Crabo (John Tuturro), who once tried to have him murdered, and is allowed to be in Duran’s corner for his debut at Madison Square Garden.
Duran’s charisma and ferocity in the ring make him a wealthy and worldwide recognized athlete. He is worshiped like a hero in his country. The money, women, drugs, and lazy work ethic follow. Leading to the low-point of quitting in the ring against Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond) in their rematch.
Against this, and to the film’s detriment, runs a concurrent sub-plot about the dispute over ownership of the Panama Canal, the assassination of President Trujillo, and the missing father figure in Roberto’s life. All interesting topics worthy of their own movie, but their inclusion in this tale feels forced, opportunistic, and inorganic. Memorable performances by Édgar Ramírez and Robert De Niro are trapped in a mediocre film.
Director: Jonathan Jakubowicz
Stars: Édgar Ramírez, Robert De Niro, Ana de Armas