Movie Review: ‘Hands Of Stone’ Is A Hit Below The Belt

Hands Of Stone‘ Basically Lost The Match In The First Round

How could a film miss the mark this bad? ‘Hands Of Stone‘ attempted to do so much but failed at nearly all of it. Boxing movies usually range from amazing like ‘Raging Bull‘ to horrible like ‘Rocky V‘; this one sadly leans more towards the ‘Rocky V‘ side of things. Even if the boxing scenes had great choreography with wonderful cinematography, it was drowned out by unlikeable characters and a weak script.

I’m not to educated on pre-90’s boxing. Given the rise of Holyfield, Tyson, and De Le Hoya, I never had the chance to get into the era of stars featured in the film. Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran may have been big names in their day but their impact never reached me. While it was interesting to learn bout the boxers in the film, the men shown here are total asses. Not a single male character in the film is really given any likable qualities. The females are either petty plot devices or used to make babies. Sadly, there was nothing to grasp onto between the punching.

I will say the casting of Edgar Ramirez as Roberto Duran was great. He had the look, the swagger, and the attitude down to perfection. Ramirez shined even brighter when paired with Usher’s Sugar Ray Leonard. He’s lucky that Robert De Niro put in such a lazy performance as Ray Arcel cause he worked hard to become Roberto Duran. He was allowed room to shine since De Niro seemed to be phoning it in.

“No Mas (No More) ” or “No Peleo (I Won’t Fight)”
Roberto Duran

One thing I enjoyed as a fan of this sport is the fact ‘Hands Of Stone‘ focused on psychological side of boxing. In a sport where most think it’s all about just going out and punching, the fights start far before you even get into the ring. Roberto used his arrogant attitude to shake Sugar Ray before their first fight. He insults his wife brutally before the match and mocks Leonard’s infamous style. It works to his advantage. Then the roles reverse later and we see Roberto Duran get psyched out of a fight. Just awesome to see the sport get spotlight like that.

With the Panamanian Film Commission pitching in for the film, the latin influence is strong. As someone who is hispanic, it’s awesome to see representation on screen. Seemingly, most of the film is spent in Panama. That normally wouldn’t be an issue if the director Jonathan Jakubowicz didn’t spend so much time making the country seem poor and angry. I know that times were rough for the country with their fight against America but juxtaposing that anger with some of the beauty in the country would have made a big difference. This being an obvious move to sell tourism in Panama, I believe they failed there.

But that problem matches the issues with the rest of the film. They have so much ugliness and nothing to combat it. Even the time for redemption of Duran was rushed over. Seeing him work harder to comeback and redeem himself would have made their attempted heroes journey better. This false happy ending is rushed and all of a sudden, we are supposed to just forgot the first hour of him being horrible. I didn’t buy it and left me feeling cheated out of any real character arc.

Final Thoughts:

With ‘Creed‘ so fresh in people’s minds, it was hard to be the next big boxing movie to be released. Hell, ‘Hands Of Stone‘ might even get overshadowed by the fall release of ‘Bleed for This‘ starring Miles Teller. This will be a good Red Box rental or something to watch on HBO but I don’t think this is anything to write home about.

‘Hands Of Stone’ will be released August 26th in the USA. The film stars Edgar Ramirez, Robert De Niro, Usher Raymond, and Ruben Blades.

Are you interested in the seeing this film?

Let me know in the comments below!

EJ Moreno
EJ Moreno
Who is EJ Moreno? Is he a trained physician? No. Is he a former Miss Universe contestant? Possibly. With a bachelors degree in film and a love of pop culture, he brings an alternative view to the world of pop culture journalism. Follow him on Twitter @EJKhryst and check out his film work at