(Photo Credit: Weinstein Co.)
The Man Behind No Mas
A story exists behind every story.
Many sports fans know of the first slugfest between Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard, won by Duran.
Many more know about Duran quitting against Leonard in the second fight in New Orleans, made infamous by the words no mas, which means no more in Spanish.
But many might not know the background of Duran, and why he responded to success and failure the way he did, which is examined effectively in the biopic “Hands of Stone.”
It is often said that poor in America is not poor in less affluent countries like Panama.
It is also often said that the moral superiority that many Americans think they possess is just arrogance and oppression to other countries.
Duran, played by Edgar Ramirez in “Hands of Stone,” had to steal mangos as a child just so his family could eat.
While children his age were learning the three R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic), Duran had to be the man of the house, because his American father ran out on his family.
The future boxing great had to watch as Americans occupied the Panama Canal in his homeland, acting as if they were superior dictators and Panama’s own residents were foreigners in their own country.
That arrogance manifests itself in the form of boxing nemesis Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher), a brash, trash-talking showman inside and outside of the ring.
Duran sees everything he despises in America in Leonard’s personality and he makes it his mission to destroy him in the ring in order to crush any sense of invincibility that Americans might feel.
However, “Hands of Stone” shows the beauty of Americans as Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro) defies his forced retirement to train Duran into a champion for free.
Although Duran was criticized by fellow Panamanians for his actions, the film “Hands of Stone” does a good job of getting into his psyche so that critics will understand why he behaved the way he did in victory and defeat.
“Hands of Stone” stands out more than other boxing biopics like “Ali” because of the attention to detail given to the friendship between Arcel and Duran.
Arcel becomes the father Duran never had, while Duran becomes the son Arcel never had.
“Hands of Stone” does a good job of not glossing over the corruption in boxing and how a few shady characters can ruin the careers of so many talented people.
De Niro is great as always.
Ramirez is great as well.
But R&B singer Usher might surprise a lot of people with his solid portrayal of Leonard.
Although Usher is a lot older than Leonard was around 1980, he captures the charisma of a young Sugar inside and outside of the wrong.
However, filmmaker Jonathan Jakubowicz should have simply casted Mykelti Williamson from “Ali” as boxing promoter Don King and not Reg E. Cathey (“House of Cards” and “The Wire”).
Cathey is a great actor, but does not make a great King.
Nevertheless, “Hands of Stone” is not about King.
The film is about getting to know the real Duran.
As a result of this film, he becomes more real and not just a couple of infamous words.