Review: ‘Hands of Stone’ knocked out by busy side plots
The story of boxer Roberto Duran boasts strong performances but is distracted by an abundance of side stories
“Hands of Stone” is less like a boxing flick and more like a professional wrestling battle royale with all its different subplots angling for main event status.
Ostensibly it tells the story of Panamanian prize fighter Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez), who grew up poor and went on to become a champion boxer before infamously declaring “no mas” and quitting on his opponent mid-fight.
But “Hands of Stone” also becomes the tale of legendary trainer Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro), who late in his career helped Duran become champ. Arcel gets his own separate storylines, one concerning the New York mafia which tries to muscle him out of the sport (John Turturro exudes quiet menace in a role that goes nowhere) and another about a daughter (Drena De Niro) who appears out of nowhere for no particular reason.
And then there’s Sugar Ray Leonard (R&B singer Usher Raymond in a graceful, cocky, scene-stealing turn), who has just enough screen time to shift the story in his direction.
So Duran ends up buried in his own story, which is fine because writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz is never sure what he’s saying about the fighter in the first place. He’s a national hero, he’s a jerk, he’s dismissive of his wife (Ana de Armas, showing moxie after being used as window dressing in “War Dogs”), all of which we’re expected to dismiss and while rooting for him in the ring.
“Hands of Stone” preaches about the brains over brawn and strategy over technique psychology of boxing. However these philosophies were not applied to the filmmaking, which is overly busy and winds up getting TKO’d.
Rated R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity
Running time: 105 minutes