First Hit: Having watched a few of Roberto Duran’s bouts, it was interesting to know more about the man who had “Hands of Stone”.
If you don’t like boxing, you probably won’t like this film as there are a fair number of boxing sequences in this film and it is not easy to watch people getting punched.
Duran (Edgar Ramirez) is first shown as a boy attempting to keep himself and his family fed. He runs the streets and steals from the Americans by taking guava's from the trees in the canal zone. Like most other Panamanians, he is resentful of U.S. presence in the canal zone.
Although the Panamanian and U.S. governments’ agreed to U.S. ownership of the canal zone, there is widespread resentment. This is important because when he fights in the U.S. he’s battling both the U.S. government's oppressive nature to Panamanians and his opponent.
In the case of the flamboyant USA Gold Medalist Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond) he created a massive dislike and even insulted his wife Juanita (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) as a part of his strategy to get under Leonard’s skin. Teaching him how to be a great boxer and to fully use his given talents is Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro). Because of previous entanglements with the mob who had a lot of control over boxing, he trained Duran for free.
This film explores Duran’s relationship with Felicidad Iglesias (Ana de Armas) who ended up marrying him. The film also explores his hunger to fight and what happens when he wins more than he ever thought he would. This film tells a story.
Ramirez was very good as Duran and made his journey believable. De Niro was fantastic as Roberto’s father figure as well as trainer. Raymond was strong as Ray Leonard. His movement around the ring and engaging personality were mirrors of the very public character he was playing. Armas was wonderful as Duran’s tested wife. How she continued to show up to him was great. Smollett-Bell was good as Leonard's wife. John Turturro was good in a small role as the mob heavy putting pressure on Arcel. Ellen Barkin was very good as Stephanie Arcel, Ray’s wife. Pedro Perez did a wonderful job as Duran’s lifelong trainer. Ruben Blades is perfectly pushy as the money man behind Duran. Jonathan Jakubowicz wrote and directed this film. I thought that the script was very good and brought out an interesting story. The direction of the scenes was especially strong in the ring.
Overall: If you like or interested in boxing in the late 1970s and early 1980s this is definitely worth seeing.