On November 25, 1980, I was in the Louisiana Superdome to watch a rematch fight between Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard where, in the 8th round, Duran threw up his hands and said: “No màs! No màs!” (no more, no more) and announced he had enough and was retiring from boxing. That once-in-a-lifetime incident changed boxing forever and made Roberto Duran a household name, good or bad.
Now 26 years later, the movie Hands of Stone chronicles Roberto Duran's rise from poverty in the Panama to his World Championship status and his fall from grace, along with his famous trainer, Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro) and his struggle to develop boxing as a worldwide television sport against the desires of the New York mob’s controlling syndicate.
This is an interesting story, but unfortunately not well presented. The fight scenes looked too choreographed, with bad editing always cutting back to the ringside audience as each punch is landed. De Niro's lackluster performance seems as if he's just reading the lines and collecting a paycheck. Ellen Barkin playing his wife Stephanie Arcel, delivers a stellar performance as an old Jewish grandmother who’s supportive of her husband. A subplot of Arcel’s estranged stepdaughter Adele (Drena De Niro – yes, Robert De Niro’s daughter) never takes hold. Instead, too much emphasis was placed on Panama’s struggles in obtaining the Canal from the U.S.A. as one of the main story points.
The writing was poor and all over the map. The vacillating between English and Spanish with English subtitles was distracting, while John Turturro (Frankie Carbo) turned in a wonderful performance as the New York mob syndicate henchman who converses with Arcel throughout the years. Even with the addition of a good musical score, this film just couldn't seem to land a punch.