Review: ‘Hands of Stone’ Jabs Beyond The Ring

Genre: Action | Biography | Drama Directed by: Jonathan Jakubowicz Starring: Edgar Ramirez, Robert De Niro, Usher Raymond Written by: Jonathan Jakubowicz
Genre: Action | Biography | Drama
Directed by: Jonathan Jakubowicz
Starring: Edgar Ramirez, Robert De Niro, Usher Raymond
Written by: Jonathan Jakubowicz

Synopsis: The rise of boxing legend Roberto Duran. 

We have had a couple of solid boxing movies in the last year with Southpaw and Creed. This time Hands of Stone chronicles the life story of Roberto Duran, who famously battled Sugar Ray Leonard. The movie follows Duran (Edgar Ramirez) from his childhood through his rise in the boxing world and eventual fall from grace. The major fight that’s depicted is the one with Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond).


While the film starts out pretty slow, it does pick up quickly once it starts rolling. The relationships that Duran had with trainer/mentor Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro) and Felicidad Iglesias (Ana de Armas) was as compelling and dynamic as anything else in the movie. If Duran was loyal to anyone it was those two people, in addition to his childhood buddy Chaflan. The movie points out the struggle for Duran endured with his family when he was a child. The rise and growth (or lack of it) of Duran is depicted in order to paint a better picture of the type of rare fighter he becomes, and explains the motives and rage he has that drives him.

The performances are really solid. Edgar Ramirez delves deep into character to bring forth an image of man many might still remember. He does great work showing the vulnerability and rage that comprises his identity. He nails Duran’s charismatic boisterous persona. Duran was an imposing and unapologetic figure, and that’s an easy takeaway from the movie. Robert De Niro does his best work in years. He is a natural playing Duran’s old-school wise and stubborn trainer and mentor. He’s the rock of the film.

Usher Raymond has done some film work before, but lets face it, he’s best known for his music, however, this role could definitely be his breakout role. Raymond displays all the characteristics to honor his portrayal of Sugar Ray Leonard. He has Leonard’s smirk and he definitely bulked up and transformed his body in the gym. He eerily resembles Leonard, but his acting justifies his casting, not his look.

Usher is a dead ringer for Sugar Ray Leonard
Usher is a dead ringer for Sugar Ray Leonard

Last but not least is Ana de Armas. What can I say about this woman besides this is the second week in a row where she blows me away with her beauty and impressive performance. She really takes the movie to another level. She’s so incredibly engrossing that I found myself glued to every scene she was in. She’s strong and convincing. No question she’s breaking out mainstream, she’s a big time actress, and her role in this movie adds validity to that.

Ana de Armas is incredible
Ana de Armas is incredible

The film is shot in a quick pace where there seems to be constant action or something going on. It’s not slow or draining. It’s made to entertain, not necessarily fixate on the boxing story or smaller details. I’m okay with that. The movie paints Duran in an honest light. They show the charitable side of him, as well as the out-of-control aggressive side. It doesn’t play a side to give Duran a positive image. It doesn’t force you to root for him or hate him. I actually found myself rooting for Leonard due to the antics of Duran.


Unlike the previously mentioned recent boxing movies, this one doesn’t focus much on the fights themselves, they are more of a precursor to the plot unfolding. The fights are fun, but a little over-the-top. You hear a weird bone crunching sound when a punch is thrown and when the fighters hold/bear hug another. The boxing is faster paced.


I really enjoyed Hands of Stone for what it was. Might not have been as dark as some of the recent boxing movies, but it’s a fair biopic about an all-time boxing great that isn’t much of a household name. The acting is very good, the story is compelling, and it has a little Scarface feel to it. This is a movie that can be enjoyed by both boxing lovers and non-boxing fans. It’s the story of Duran that moves the film. Ultimately Hands of Stone is the knockout movie that’s worth your buck.

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 45 min 

Release Date: Friday, August 26, 2016

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  • Acting - 9/10
  • Cinematography - 9/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 8/10
  • Setting/Theme - 8/10
  • Buyability - 9/10
  • Recyclability - 6/10
  • Fun/Entertainment - 8/10

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About Jim Alexander

When it boils down to it, Jim's passion is entertainment. Aside from being an avid sports fan, that follows all things NFL, NBA, and Soccer. He currently resides in the suburbs of Chicago. At the core of his interests...movies! Whether trying to catch the newest flick coming out this weekend, or the latest On Demand release, to heated debates with his friends and colleagues about the most recent "Box Office Blunder". The passion for movies lies deep within him. When he isn't writing, he immerses himself in his other interests; Acting and Radio Broadcasting. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimRko.

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