Hands of Stone Movie Review

By McDaniel Hartranft, ’17

I am the movie watcher that becomes so invested in characters that I’d do just about anything for them. Yes, I cry for them, laugh with them and cheer whole heartedly for and with them. However, I got tired feeling bad for the girl who had everything but that one guy.  I’m not a chick flick hater but sometimes you need more depth than the who-is-going-to-fall-in-love-with-who plot. This is where sports movies have filled this longing for something more than hair flips, lip gloss and high heels. Yes! With sports movies I was given underdogs, overcoming the impossible and some pretty good looking athletes. It’s the best of both world ladies, join the dark side.

The true story of retired American boxing trainer Ray Arcel returning back to the world of boxing is captured in 2016’s movie “Hands of Stone.” As aforementioned sport movie fanatic I was shocked to see Hands of Stone displayed at Target without hearing a word about it. When I got home sounds of frantic typing on my laptop was met with a click, and silence as I held my breath. I focused my eyes on the trailer as I saw flickers of fight scenes, romance, and hints of a what seemed could be a beautiful underdog story. My eyes were later met with my fists rubbing them as I saw the faces of Usher and Robert De Niro out of shock. Why hadn’t I heard of this movie? A couple days later with an iTunes gift card in hand and baby in another I rented Hands of Stone and was ready to watch hopefully another great boxing movie. Whew, I got you there didn’t I? Just making sure that the voice in your head who is verbalizing this piece of writing in your head is on its toes.

Robert De Niro captures the golden years of Ray Arcel’s life post incident with the mafia that almost cost him his life. The injury caused him to retire from the boxing world in order to protect his wife and him. The opening scene captures Arcel watching a fight consisting of the movie’s main character Roberto Durán winning a fight. This is the beginning of Arcel’s comeback to training as he begins to train Durán for free. The movie explores the Panama Canal conflict with the United States and the brutal imprint that was left Durán as a child. As Durán is trained by Arcel he begins to land higher profiled fights that include a match with Sugar Ray Leonard who is played by Usher. The fight is much more than just Durán vs. Leonard it is a symbolic match that is Panama against The United States. Through a multi round fight Durán comes out as victor through the point system. This is the beginning of Durán’s success which follows great fame and fortune. As a kid who had nothing Durán has everything money, food, and family and he abuses the power of having them.

This is a true story and what drips from the reality is in fact realness. I didn’t particular like Durán or his attitude. He went from having nothing to having everything and with that power he abused a lot of things in his life. However, even though I didn’t like this occurrence doesn’t make the actuality less true. What I found interesting was scene after scene of very talented boxers going round to round together and there was no blood.What makes the Rocky movies so good is that it was realistic. When Rocky Balboa got hit you felt the sting too just by watching it. Balboa got hit and not only did he bleed but he swelled, and looked deranged in the end. That’s boxing. Yet in this film Sugar Ray and Durán looked like they they were just a little sweaty after a 15 round fight. Where is the reality in that? However, on the topic of realness I fell in love with the story and raw edges that seemed to never smooth out. Hands of Stone ended up flopping in the box office big time. Did I love this movie? No, It won’t go down as the best boxing film or come even close to making the list but it still accomplish what I set out to watch. I saw an underdog coming from nothing beat a somebody with skull shaking hits. Blood or no blood I’d recommend this movie to anyone especially to the ladies who are more than ready to breakup with Nicholas Sparks.