What happens when a former drug dealer, a devout Christian, two failed footballers and a cheeky scouser decide to use their freestyle football skills to busk their way across America to meet their hero, Diego Maradona? You get a surprisingly funny and heart-warming documentary watching five loveable lads trying to fulfil a dream while learning a few valuable life lessons along the way.
The story begins with the boys at home in London, Liverpool and Leeds, giving a context to their varied backgrounds and how they came into the freestyling scene. After managing to blag a flight to New York, the boys start their journey armed only with a plan — no money, no transport, no accommodation. OK, so they're not actually going to starve or freeze to death with a camera crew following their every move, but finding ways to make money and budget are lessons the lads learn fast, and watching them figure it out by teaming together and arguing is pretty entertaining.
The boys do funny things with balls, fruit and whatever they can kick around to try to raise money and get as many freebies as possible to get to Argentina. Freestyling is not exactly molecular physics (rocket science is so overdone), but their skills are pretty cool and it is endearing to see how much passion these boys have.
Do they make it? Ha, that would be telling, but to be honest it doesn't really matter. It soon stops becoming just about meeting Maradona and more about the boys themselves trying to prove — to themselves and others — that they can achieve something after having to deal with problems such as the death of close friends, massive rejection, homelessness and even growing up in a war-torn city. Even if you're not a big football fan you can appreciate the poignancy of a journey made to meet your ultimate hero. Of course, football fans will appreciate it more — even those still unforgiving of Maradona's "Hand of God" goal in the quarter final of the 1986 world cup between England and Argentina (it was over 20 years ago, people).
The documentary has some really funny moments — whether it's the boys saying stupid things about the 52 United States (bless) or just some of the wacky people they meet along the way, there are a few good chuckle moments. In terms of the film-making, the boys' characters carry a lot of it — but, having said that, the story has great pace and the balance of freestyling skills, the personal tales and the journey make the film as a whole very effective. In the Hands of the Gods is a surprisingly enjoyable and emotional ride that is difficult not to love.