Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Roberto Duran biopic lightweight

Published:Monday | September 12, 2016 | 9:00 AMDamian Levy
Édgar Ramírez (left) and Academy Award winner Roberto De Niro star in Hands of Stone.

Based on the true story of one-time lightweight champion of the world Roberto Duran, Hands of Stone is a very busy movie. It chronicles the rise of Roberto Duran from the streets of Panama to international fame. As it does this, the movie also touches on other aspects of Duran’s life, such as his love life, the struggles of Panamanian politics and even the sport of boxing itself.

Paradoxically, Hands of Stone is about all these things - and nothing.

Initially, the movie feels like it's taking an interesting approach to crafting a biopic. Instead of a traditional story arc, it's more concerned with its characters. You see snapshots of Duran's life at various stages. At each stage, the struggles he faces all seem familiar, making me invested in his character and his plight.

The problem with that is, as a narrative, the moments where he seems to be triumphant fall very flat. It's a movie that lacks a sense of progression, due to its incohesive style.

There's an attempt at that progression in the narration by veteran actor Robert De Niro. Simultaneously, De Niro is the worst and best part of the film. When his narration pops up it's cringe-inducing, rather than engrossing. It destroys any sense of immersion in the story. When he gets to perform, as Duran's trainer Ray Arcel, he near-saves the movie with every scene he's in.

There's a story about Roberto and his wife, played by Ana de Armas, how she initially rejected him because of his lack of wealth. There's also the story of Ray Arcel's struggle to have Duran's raw talent stand out, while fighting off the gambling underworld of boxing. The movie would've been better off focusing on one side story with which to parallel Roberto's boxing career, instead of throwing them all at the wall and seeing what sticks.

The answer is spaghetti.

I don't want to keep banging on against this movie. Its ambition is not shrouded in cynicism or leaps in logic. Its stories are easy to follow, but hard to resonate. Walking out of the movie I was mostly disappointed, since I felt that there was something there that could've been great, but instead was ho-hum.

If you're looking to see into the life of Roberto Duran, you'll find that here. It just won't make for the most engaging movie.

Rating: Catch It On Cable.