In 1980, Robert De Niro delivered an Oscar-winning performance as Jake La Motta in Raging Bull, the Martin Scorsese masterpiece that set a high water mark for both biographical narratives and boxing films. For many years, the compound image of De Niro and a boxing ring was indisputably evocative of cinematic excellence. And then, in 2013, he starred alongside Sylvester Stallone in Grudge Match, and that compound image suddenly had an unpleasant amount of bodily fluids splattered across it.
Now, he’s trying to clean up some of that mess. In Hands Of Stone, the 72-year-old veteran actor plays Ray Arcel, the master trainer who stood in the corner of 18 world champions. One of those was Roberto Durán, the Panamanian fighter who came in fifth in The Ring’s countdown of the sport’s greatest talents of the past eight decades. Written and directed by Venezuelan filmmaker Jonathan Jakubowicz (Secuestro Express), this biopic follows the complex relationship between Arcel and Durán (Zero Dark Thirty’s Édgar Ramírez). Ellen Barkin and John Turturro help round out that cast, with Usher stepping in as the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard. Looks better than Grudge Match, at any rate.
Hand Of Stone arrives in theaters on August 26th.