• by Wes Singleton

Hands of Stone, C

Rated R, 105 minutes

The well-acted but overly ambitious new biopic "Hands of Stone" tells the worthy story of legendary boxing hall of famer and world champion Robert Duran. We know that typically what happens in the ring is a metaphor for what is going on personally, though unfortunately that is where the film loses its footing. At age 72, legendary trainer Ray Arcel (Oscar-winner Robert De Niro) comes out of retirement to coach world-class Panamanian boxer Roberto Durán (Édgar Ramírez). Arcel becomes a mentor to the ferocious fighter, convincing him that winning ultimately comes down to strategy. After scoring knockout after knockout, Duran prepares for a bout against the charming but equally tough Sugar Ray Leonard (singer Usher Raymond), the undefeated lightweight champion. Five months later, on Nov. 25, 1980, the two titans meet for an infamous rematch that makes boxing history. Directed and written by Jonathan Jakubowicz ("Secuestro Express") and based on the book "Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran" by Christian Guidice, "Hands of Stone" pops with grit inside the ring, but its crowded narrative chases too many rabbits and ultimately goes down for the count. Ramirez and De Niro both give strong performances as fighter and trainer, respectively, but it often veers into too many unnecessary subplots - too much time is spent on Arcel's personal life (in spite of having the talented, underused Ellen Barkin as his wife) and with Leonard as well. There are too many characters who come in and out of the narrative, and Jakubowicz could've also tightened up a sluggish first act dealing with Duran's early life. Unsurprisingly, the most memorable parts are those inside the ring, and the two Leonard bouts along with Duran's comeback fight shown at the end are bloody but effectively and realistically choreographed. "Hands of Stone" is mildly entertaining and with more efficient storytelling, would've been a total knockout.

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