Dallas Movie Screening

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hands of Stone

Most everyone agrees the Robert De Niro’s Raging Bull is the preeminent boxing film, so it’s interesting to see him in the role of an aging trainer to up and coming Roberto Durán. Written, directed and produced by Venezuelan Jonathan Jakubowicz, it was based on a book by Christian Giudice. It explores the life of Durán and what it took to make him into the powerhouse slugger that earned the nickname “Hands of Stone”. Well paced and edited the fight scenes are realistic as one can be in a movie without the use of CGI and slo-mo.

The movie begins with the legendary boxing trainer Ray Arcel (De Niro) watching a Durán fight in Panama and seeing the hunger and determination of the natural fighter. Ray had stopped training due to pressure from “wiseguys” (John Turturro) who didn’t want Ray having a nationwide fight game. He promised to never train in New York again. At first the feisty Durán (Edgar Ramirez) doesn’t want help from the American. Through flashbacks we see Durán’s early influences with the battles of his people against the American’s to control their country and the canal zone. His father was an American soldier stationed in Panama who abandoned his mother when he was sent back. A hardscrabble kid who did what he could to help feed his mother and siblings. He was befriended by Chaflan (Oscar Jaenada) who was like a pied piper to the El Chorrillo slum kids teaching them how to take what they could get. Duran asks Plomo (Pedro Pérez) the trainer at the local gym to teach him to fight. It wasn’t until Plomo sees him in a pick up fight with another kid, that he decides to take him on.

Duran had early success and his cocky and aggressive nature wins over school girl Felicidad (Ana de Armas) who he later marries and has 5 children (and she has the same body over the years...ok). Despite not attending school and not be able to read, Duran manages to absorb Arcel’s advice and training like a sponge. His head strong attitude often causes him to lock horns with Arcel. But in the end, he see’s Arcel as a father figure to guide him and discard his advice.

The fight with Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher) surprised even Sugar Ray who claims he never loses. Duran’s success of his career brings him lots of cash and fame. He generously shares with people back home, but it also starts to cause him to divert from his discipline into indulgence. He alienates his family and friends. When he’s forced into a rematch with Sugar Ray by his promoter Carlos (Ruben Blades). He’s not ready, and is put off by the strategy by Sugar Ray to dance around him in the ring. He infamously walks out of the ring. Despite the disappointment of letting his country down, Duran had managed to win 5 different titles for the WBA and the WBC in various weight classes over his career before he retired in 2002. He had a professional record of 119 fights, 103 wins with 69 knockouts.

There are some beautiful photography of Panama (probably to boost tourism by the Panama Film Commission who partially financed the film). As well as a strong anti-American sentiment as it portrays the angry American soldiers opening fire on students and citizens who protest the U.S. presence and control of the Canal Zone. As far as fight movies go, this one was one not only stays faithful to the life of one of the worlds greatest boxer, it also gets into the head of the fighter and the motivation of what made him so great. Edgar Ramírez is effectively convenes the intensity and hunger of Duran. From his energetic youth to his more humble return to the ring after he tried to retire. Ana de Armas is a good foil as Felicidad for her exuberant husband. De Niro is often very laid back but solid as the trainer. Between bouts Arcel combs Duran’s hair, because it makes him look cool and confident to his opponent. The fight game is all in the head.
(Review by reesa)

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