Robert DeNiro stars as legendary boxing trainer Ray Arcel in the new fight biopic “Hands Of Stone.” Arcel is the guy who trained Roberto Duran to lightweight boxing greatness in the 1970s. While he first entered the fight game as a lightweight, Duran ended up boxing in four different classes and was regarded by many as one of the greatest boxers of all time.
Edgar Ramirez plays Duran—an angry, cocky and scrappy Panamanian street fighter turned boxing pro who gets into trouble with his mouth more than he does in the ring. When he gets into a title match with American star Sugar Ray Leonard, Duran calls out Sugar Ray’s wife to get in his head. Pop star — and apparently turned actor — (and celebrity judge from NBC’s “The Voice”) Usher plays Leonard. Not unlike ‘The Rock’ before him, it’s apparently unacceptable to use a one or two word description while acting in a major motion picture. So he’s billed as Usher Raymond IV.
There are certainly moments of promise in “Hands Of Stone,” but Ramirez — at age 39 — is way too old to be convincing as a young Roberto Duran. And for me that hurt the movie from the start. Director and screenwriter Jonathan Jakubowicz seems to struggle with which story it really wants to tell—Duran’s, Ray Arcel’s, or even Sugar Ray Leonard’s. Focusing more on either of the latter two might have made for a better finished product. DeNiro as the mentor and coach, nearly 40 years after blowing audiences away as Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull,” is certainly the most compelling part of “Hands Of Stone.” It’s a far cry from his more recent roles in “Dirty Grandpa” and “The Intern.”
Another bright spot is Ana de Armas, who plays Duran’s feisty Latina wife. She flashes some real star potential as she did last week in “War Dogs.” Look for Ana de Armas to become a household name taking a path similar to Margot Robbie when she stars in the upcoming remake of “Blade Runner.” The camera absolutely loves her. She’s gonna be a big star. Mark it down.
As boxing movies go, “Hands Of Stone” doesn’t land nearly as many punches as “Creed” did last year. Roberto Duran deserved better. Ray Arcel deserved better.