5 Line Movie Time: HANDS OF STONE (R)

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BIASES: 40 year-old black male; erstwhile screenwriter who
 favors action, comedy, and glossy, big budget movies over foreign
 flicks, kiddie flicks, and weepy Merchant Ivory fare

MOVIE BIASES: I’m a sucker for biopics and 50% Panamanian so there was 100% chance of me seeing this.

MAJOR PLAYERS: Edgar Ramirez (Point Break), Robert DeNiro (Casino), Usher Raymond IV (Killers) and writer/director Jonathan Jakubowicz.

Yeah, you better run, Sugar Ray.

Like most biopics, this one has multiple movies in it — coming of age story, rise and fall of a national hero, a defining professional and personal rivalry — all of which hit just as hard as the compelling “street ices to all 31 Baskin & Robbins flavors” real-life boxing tale of the pride of Panama, Roberto Duran (Ramirez).

While the performances are excellent all around, what struck me most was that this just may be the most pro-Panamanian film in Hollywood history. Perhaps it’s because it was ushered through by a Venezuelan, unknown-to-American-audiences Jakubowicz, who grounds Duran’s throughline of pride rising above poverty to an unshakable love for his country and well-founded hatred of American imperialism. Duran’s more than a boxer, he’s a symbol of hope to a demi-colonized country kept in relative poverty due to not having control of its own future; you’ll almost excuse the vicious insults and mind games Duran unleashes upon a genial enough Sugar Ray Leonard (a winningly charming Usher) in order to outsmart his soon-to-be rival ahead of Leonard-Duran I. It’s a confident, swaggering, authentic performance by Ramirez that quietly resonates; the movie critic and the Panamanian in me just hopes enough people go enjoy it.

@@@@ REELS

(FOUR REELS)

An urban legend/instant classic.

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