So I just saw Hands of Stone because I had nothing else to do. Now that school’s back, my time has become more and more eaten up, but thankfully, I was able to squeeze in another movie for review. Now I did not have a strong desire to see this film. Something about it just seemed really boring and not worthwhile. Unfortunately, my fears were confirmed.
Hands of Stone isn’t necessarily bad; inside this crowded film is a touching story about a man (specifically legendary boxer Roberto Durán) who has risen out of poverty and must fight his way to becoming a legend while battling his inner demons. If that sounds like a cliche plot, it is. However, I have had cliche plots work for me this year provided they make all of their other parts work.
Hands of Steel does not make all of their parts work.
The acting in this movie is overall good. There is no opportunity for anyone to shine brightly in the script, but there was never a point in time where I thought anyone did a bad job of acting. Well, that’s not entirely true; Durán’s many children do show up in the film. Now his children are almost never in the film, and I almost wanted to call them props, because I could hardly call them characters in this movie. However, there is one part in the film where they actually do get a lot of screen time, and I realized why they did not put them in the film very often: they’re horrible actors.
The story, although cliche, does have its touching moments as well as its dramatic ones. I particularly enjoy movies about redemption, so when Durán gets opportunities to redeem himself, it made the experience better.
Now out of all the characters this movie has, Usher as Sugar Ray Leonard would be the only one that I would call enthralling. In fact, there was a bit of a disjointed feeling to this movie: I was under the impression that I was suppose to root for Durán because the movie’s about him. But whenever the movie focuses on their rivalry, all I can think of is how much I wanted Leonard to punch Durán’s lights out. Not only is Leonard way more likable of a character, but Usher’s performance as Leonard was the only one that I could call better than average.
But the fact that I was not compelled to root for the protagonist was only one of a few things that made this movie feel disjointed; another reason is because this movie barely has a theme. Throughout the entirety of the film, numerous themes are touched on including having pride in your country, having shame in your country, how pride can ruin your life, how family is really important, the poor verses the rich, the oppressed verses the oppressors, how you can’t judge a person based on their heritage, and so on. And because this movie touches on so many themes, it is almost as if they touch on none of them, because no theme is truly emphasized. What the movie needed was more focus.
Another thing that really threw me off is that they did not relay the passage of time very well. There would be times where they would cut to a new scene, and it took me a while to realize that this was six months to even a couple of years later.
And speaking of time, this movie covers practically all of Roberto Durán’s life (which, in my opinion, is part of the reason why this movie feels so unfocused), and except for his childhood, they had the same actor play Durán from age 17 to mid-30’s.
Now when Durán met his wife (I looked this up), he was 17 and she was 14… the two actors they picked for these parts were Edgar Ramirez (who is on his way to 40) and the absolutely stunning Ana de Armas (who is 28). Somehow, they got Armas to look as if she’s 14 or 16 years old (which was doubly awkward for me) in their meeting scene, but they most certainly did NOT get Ramirez to look as if he was a 17 year old.
So when I watched this scene, it felt like I was witnessing a 16 year old in a school uniform get hit on by a man who looks like he’s about 30. So instead of these scenes feeling romantic, I got this massive creeper vibe.
This movie also had a massive amount of flashbacks. Even though I almost always hate flashbacks, some of them served their purpose in providing the correct amount of context… but most of them provided context that I could have made on my own.
Hands of Stone has a decent cast who does a decent job telling a decent story. It’s a shame that they could not condense and focus up the film, otherwise this would have been a solid experience. However, because they could not focus up the film, I ultimately lost interest fifteen minutes before the movie even ended. If you’re a fan of boxing or of sports biopics, then this movie may be worth your time. However, as an overall film, it’s just not all that riveting.