Hands of Stone | Movie Reviews + Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
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Hands of Stone 

Edgar Ramirez tries but fails to elevate this hackneyed boxing bio-pic about Roberto Duran

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Last year, Creed was the miracle movie that proved you could re-package the familiar rags-to-riches boxing tale, even pack it full of sentimental drivel, and still have a crowd-pleasing hit. Alas, Jonathan Jakubowicz’s bio-pic about Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez) and his coach, Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro), is simply a poorly constructed checklist of everything we’re weary of. There is the awkward shoehorning of past events, whether geopolitical, like the U.S.’s control of the Panama Canal, or personal, like Arcel’s encounter with a mobster (shot in scary and “historical” black and white). A poor kid who shoots to fame and winds up passed out under a disco ball. The showy girlfriend/wife who wears a lot of skimpy outfits. The super-duper critical fight, in this case, Duran’s bout with Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond). A crisis of confidence. A montage of training scenes. A crusty but lovable coach who says things like: “boxing is a mental sport,” “to rest is to rust” and “luck is a woman you need to learn to seduce.” It’s doubly frustrating, because one can see the bones of a good story here, about a fighter who struggles publicly and privately while caught between cultures and expectations. De Niro is better than usual (a low bar these days), leaving mostly Ramirez to hold up the film. And it’s a lot of boxing-movie bulk to carry for 15 rounds.


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