By: Reel 127 (Six Beers) –
Hands of Stone tells the story of Roberto Durán, a famous Panamanian boxer, and his rise in boxing. The film follows his life story growing up in Panama and eventually becoming the world champion. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going into this movie. The writer/director is pretty unheard of and the only recognizable names are Robert De Niro and Usher. After seeing Hands of Stone, though, I can easily call this one of the worst movies I have seen this year.
De Niro’s film choices in recent years have been questionable to say the least. I have nothing against him and he has more than proven to be a great actor in his career; it just seems like lately he has not been as discerning in his film selections. As a result he seems to not put as much effort in his performances. It was refreshing to see him try with Hands of Stone and actually had a pretty nice performance. Edgar Ramirez was also very good as Durán.
Let’s all forget this monstrosity happened.
Boxing films in recent years have had a pretty standard formula. Either the boxer rises up against impossible odds to be the victor in the end through determination (The Fighter) or someone falls from grace only to make a big comeback (Southpaw). Hands of Stone follows the first storyline for about 85% of the movie. Then it spends 5% of it on Durán’s fall from grace, and the last 10% of it on his comeback. I would have much rather had the story stop with him beating Sugar Ray. Apparently Durán had over 100 fights in his life and this film barely covered any. The script was one of the many flaws with this film.
At the start of Durán’s fight with Sugar Ray I heard something so jarring that it bugged me for the rest of the movie. A microphone got blown out during a line from Ramirez. It happens about 45 minutes in to the movie. Afterwards you will constantly hear times where the sound was not mixed properly during recording and it becomes annoying. There was at least one other time where there sounded like a major blow out. I have heard better sound work on YouTube videos!
I obviously don’t mean these videos.
If the sound quality wasn’t terrible enough the other technical aspects are nothing to applaud. When the shots were still because of tripod use the camerawork actually looks good. All other times it is too jerky or barely framed to be any good. To compound this, the editing was some of the worst I have seen. Cuts were made too early or too late quite often and I groaned at the use of fading to black.
It makes this movie look like not that bad of production work.
The movie makes it seem like Durán was the greatest man who ever lived. I’m sure he is great, but it got to the point where they were trying to excuse mistakes made in his life because of other things he had done. By the end of the movie they are even straight up lying about facts. They say Durán was the only person to beat the famous boxer Sugar Ray Leonard. However, a quick search proves that to not be true. Even during the fights shown in the movie they very rarely show Durán being hit during the matches. It really takes away any tension from the match if one guy is just pummeling the other.
One word I didn’t think I would need to use to describe this movie would be “propaganda.” Unfortunately I now stand corrected on that. The movie seems to spend a lot of time making the case that Panama is a great country that has been oppressed by the United States. I’m not saying the US has been great to them and this is unjustified. But they also try to build up that Sugar Ray Leonard is the champion of America as Durán is to Panama. Then they vilify Sugar Ray to the point that he seems like a terrible guy. In fact, this movie seems anti-African American as well as they make the handful of black characters to appear come off as terrible people. They even have Ray Charles telling Sugar Ray to kick Durán’s ass, the protagonist you are supposed to be cheering for. I didn’t think I would see a movie this year that tried to make me dislike Ray Charles.
Down with America?
Hands of Stone is much like a one-sided boxing match. Hard to watch. It’s a film that isn’t even worth watching because it is so bad it’s entertaining. When I wasn’t bored with it I was frustrated by it. I have no idea how or why this film got a wide release, but just wait for it to leave theaters soon, then forget it ever existed.
Hands of Stone (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time it sounds like the microphone is being blown out.
Take a Drink: every time there is a fade out or in.
Take a Drink: when Durán eats ice cream or a snow cone.