Hands of Stone

This biopic of Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran rejects both of the traditional plotlines that usually trouble all boxing flicks: 1) mobsters are out to get him for refusing to take a fall, or 2) his girl wants him to forego the beatings. In this film by Venezuelan director Jonathan Jakubowicz, Robert De Niro plays Ray Arcel, a trainer with 18 championships to his credit who had the vision in 1953 to make boxing a “national” pastime via TV when the NYC mafia wished to reign it in and make it a Big Apple spectator sport only! Banned from ever profiting from the sport again, Arcel’s story parallels Duran’s rise and fall, as the aged trainer turns the bruiser and basher into the Lightweight Champion! Duran had a chip on his shoulder growing up and as an adult, his mouth was at times was more pungent than his fists. Ellen Barkin and Ruben Blades co-star, as well as an astute performance from Usher as Sugar Ray Leonard. Unfortunately, like most boxing films, women are at the core of every conflict but not in any constructive manner.