Hands of Stone Blu-ray Review
Even people who never followed boxing know what those words mean. Depending on who you speak with, they were or were not uttered by boxer Roberto Duran on November 25, 1980 near the end of the seventh round of his rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard. Though Duran admitted that he had quit the fight because of recurring stomach cramps, he has maintained that he never uttered the two words that have continued to haunt him to this day. Before this fight, if you asked people about Duran, they would hold their fists up and remark, “Manos de Piedra!” Hands of Stone.
When we first meet Robert Duran (Ramirez), he is boxing for pride in New York’s Madison Square Garden. After the bout his manager (Ruben Blades) introduces him to Ray Arcel (DeNiro). Arcel was once a well-known boxing trainer but a bad night going up against a mob-backed fighter has left him out of the game for some time. Arcel is not interested in the young fighter but eventually comes around and accepts the position. This, of course, angers the local neighborhood wise guy (Turturro). Arcel explains that, in exchange for not ending up at the bottom of the Hudson River, he had agreed to never make another penny off of boxing. He is training Duran for free. A technicality but one that keeps him from swimming with the fishes.
In between training sessions we learn much about Duran the man. Revered as a God in his native Panama, he likes to give back to his fellow countrymen. He is also smitten with the beautiful local girl Felicidad (Ana de Armas). Eventually they marry and things begin to happen for Duran. When he is offered a chance to fight current WBC Welterweight Champion Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond) he realizes that a victory will make him one of the greatest fighters of all time. Ding! Ding!
It seems like every couple of years there are a spate of boxing themed films of various quality. From ROCKY to RAGING BULL. From CREED to BLEED FOR THIS, which ironically also featured Robert Duran as part of its story line, audiences seem to enjoy watching the ballet that is boxing and all of the things that happen backstage. And while HANDS OF STONE will never win an Oscar, it is well made. Ramirez plays Duran as a big kid at heart, which, if you follow boxing, the man still is. DeNiro is very strong as Arcel, a man who knew that you had to be able to beat your opponent both physically and mentally. When a new round would begin, Arcel would very neatly comb his fighter’s hair. He did this so, to their opponent, they would look like they just walked into the arena…not like they had been punching for three minutes. And I must give credit to the singer, Usher Raymond, who does a fine job portraying Ray Leonard.
Technically the film is on point. The boxing scenes are well presented and director Jakubowicz gives the scenes out of the ring a very nice pace.
Video: The film is presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio and is very sharp. The bright colors of Duran’s wardrobe, and home country, come across quite vibrantly.
Audio: The soundtrack is presented with a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track and sounds fine. Crank it up during the fight scenes and you’ll swear you’re in the middle of the ring.
Roberto Duran: A Boxing Legend, a Nation’s Pride (23:34): A rather mixed bag featurette that looks at the man himself as well as the movie about him. For those really interested in the Duran/Leonard fights there is a great 30 FOR 30 documentary from ESPN that premiered last year.
Deleted Scenes (10:42): Nine scenes of various length that, while interesting, really add nothing to the film.
Lyric Video (2:26): “Champions,” featuring Usher
Lyric Video (2:32): “Champions,” featuring Ruben Blades