Hands of Stone
Starring Edgar Ramirez, Robert DeNiro, Ana de Armas, Usher Raymond, Ellen Barkin,
Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez first caught my attending with his commanding performance in “The Liberator” (2013). Since then he has quickly become a Hollywood commodity, starring alongside Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro in “Joy” last year, action flick “Point Break”, even dabbling in horror with “Deliver Us From Evil”. With his second-high profile leading role Ramirez is cast for his multidimensional charisma which oozes through the screen. The two lead performance in “Hands of Stone” are the heart of the latest historical sports film. DeNiro, known to phone in few performances now and then, hasn’t been better since “Silver Linings Playbook”. Somehow new talented/writer director Jonathan Jakubowicz manages to deliver yet another fresh take on the boxing genre.
Young Roberto Duran was always fighting whether it was for food, his life, or along- side Panama for independence. He started using his fists as a teenager, and was pretty good. As an adult he was the most talked about fighter in the country. He didn’t get worldwide recognition until he met legendary trainer Ray Arcel (DeNiro) after winning a fight at Madison Square Gardens. Together Duran (Ramirez) learned technique and methods beyond just body work. With Panama constantly struggling for rights over the controversial Canal, Duran became an icon for his countrymen. His greatest challenge came with the bought between Americas Favorite Boxer, Sugar Ray Leonard (Raymond).
Ramirez is cast for his multidimensional charisma which oozes through the screen.
Miguel Ioann Littin Menz’s cinematography work in the ring is especially vivacious and breathtaking. “Hands of Stone” is edited with such speed, near eccentric pacing during the fights, that it’s almost dizzying but ultimately effective. Angelo Milli’s intense and always present original score pulses at all the right moments to keep the viewer engaged. The sound editing is also quite noticeable and potent in the fight sequences. Jakubowicz has assembled all the right ingredients for a good boxing film in every corner of the ring. It’s an emotional story of family, love of country and especially maturity. There is a moment in the film where Duran, not the most humble guy, offers an apology and it brings the character full circle from opening moments of his childhood.
It’s a period piece that begins in the early 70’s and ends in the mid 80’s. It’s shot on location in Panama where Duan still resides today. With a lot of ground, years and subplots to cover if the audience is going to care about these two very different men, “Hands of Stone” does begin to feel long winded in the end. I did quite enjoy seeing Ellen Barkin (“Oceans Thirteen”) back in a mainstream film, playing Arcel’s wife, she is another great addition. Like most boxing films worth your time, “Hands of Stone” isn’t about an athlete, it’s not about winning or even endurance. Here we get culture, historical reference, we see a boxer that isn’t portrayed as an all-together outstanding guy or a worthy hero, at best he is flawed, broken, a work in progress.
Ramirez and DeNiro deliver noteworthy performance in a genre film that transcends genre.