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The Hurricane (1999)

DVD Cover (Universal)
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5.6
 / 10
3 votes
Genres:
Biopic (Feature), Courtroom Drama, Drama, Message Movie, Prison Film
Director:
Norman Jewison Norman Jewison
Starring:
Denzel Washington Denzel Washington
Vicellous Reon Shannon Vicellous Reon Shannon
Deborah Kara Unger Deborah Kara Unger
Liev Schreiber Liev Schreiber
John Hannah John Hannah
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Review by Chad
Added: September 06, 2005
"Here comes the story of the Hurricane,
The man the authorities came to blame
For somethin' that he never done.
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world."

Bob Dylan - "Hurricane"

Our movie focuses on Rubin "Hurricane" Carter (Denzel Washington) and starts out in Paterson, New Jersey during the sixties. Hurricane is an up-and-coming boxer with a bright future in the sport, but he's also cursed with a history of violence. At the tender age of eleven, he stabbed a wealthy businessman who was attempting to murder him... this leads him to detective Della Pesca (Dan Hedaya), who orders him to spend the next ten years in a juvenile prison. At the age of eighteen, Rubin escapes from this prison and immediately enlists in the army. Upon returning from serving the country, he makes his way back to his hometown of Paterson and soon runs into Pesca once again... who hauls him back into court over the escape charges, and Rubin is ordered to serve the rest of his time in a "real" prison. After serving his time, Rubin turns to the world of boxing as an outlet for his pent-up rage at the system that has wronged him throughout his life. He makes a damned good name for himself, and comes close to winning the welterweight championship of the world... however, his world is turned upside down when he is framed for murder.

It turns out that Pesca holds a grudge against this "nigger", and he uses the murder of three people at a local bar to send Rubin back to jail. The evidence against Pesca's case is strong - one of the men who was shot claimed on his death-bed that Rubin was not the man who pulled the trigger, Rubin has an alibi placing him at another bar at the time of the murder, and a lot of the times and statements just do not add up. This doesn't stop Pesca from twisting the facts around, and Rubin ends up being sentenced to three consecutive life sentences for murders that he did not commit. The rest of the movie details Rubin's fight for justice, along with the unlikely help of Brooklyn teenager Lesra Martin (Vicellous Shannon) and three Canadian activists (Deborah Kara Unger, Liev Schreiber, and John Hannah).

This movie is based on real events. However, as the movie freely admits at the beginning, the director added in a number of fictional characters and events to (I'm guessing) make the movie more entertaining to the movie-watching public. While it would be simple enough to say "well, they may have made some stuff up, but the general storyline is true", it's not quite that easy... there's plenty of evidence supporting Rubin's innocence, but even with the corrupt officials and forged paperwork aside, there's a good deal of evidence supporting his guilt. Therefore, I'm not going to get into the connections to the real story, I'm going to review this movie as though it were purely a work of fiction, and I'm only going to discuss the movie at hand - after all, isn't that what I should be doing in the first place?

With that disclaimer out of the way, I'd like to point out that this is far from the type of movie I normally watch... however, after digging out some Dylan CD's and hearing "Hurricane", I decided to see what Hollywood did with the storyline. To the shock of both myself and a large chunk of my reading audience, I actually enjoyed this movie. I felt that the storyline was told in a very compelling fashion, the acting from all involved was excellent, and the director really knew how to tell this story in a way that was full of facts yet entertaining at the same time. I normally find that these types of movies in which lots of evidence is revealed proclaiming the main characters guilt or innocence tend to drag on for far too long - too much time is spent hammering whichever side down the audiences throat and it starts to get quite tedious, but that is not the case here. Even though the movie runs for nearly two-and-a-half hours, I never grew restless or reached for the fast-forward button; each piece of this movie keeps you glued to the screen and wanting to find out what happens next.

Now, although I have given this movie a lot of praise throughout this review thus far, the movie was not without its faults. The one thing that bugged me the most was how the friendship between Lesra and Rubin was handled. While I understand that Rubin was very grateful for the human contact and the help on his case, and I also understand that Lesra looked up to Rubin as a role model, I couldn't help but get the feeling that the friendship between them was almost romantic in nature. This is due to some bad scripting and actions in a few of their scenes, and at one point, I half expected Rubin to lean over and kiss Lesra. By the way, Lesra was a guy... I realize that the name isn't very telling of that fact, so there you go. I think that this element of the movie should have been toned down just a notch, and things would have been OK in my book.

The other fault that I found with this movie was the ending. It seems as though they wanted to end things in a hurry, and the result is a "that's it?" feeling when the credits begin to roll. For two hours, we witness Rubin's fight for both justice and freedom. We witness him and his friends digging through mountains of evidence and testimony. Then, in a matter of five minutes, he's set free and the movie is over. I think that this ending would have been much more effective had the courtroom drama been used more effectively, and had things gone on for just a bit longer than it did... but maybe that's just me.

Overall, the movie does have its faults, but it's still a damned entertaining movie. The women in the audience will cry, the men will "get something in their eye", and you'll more than likely become interested in the real story behind this man's life. Just one word of advice for fans of this movie - do a bit of research and don't take everything in this movie as gospel. Read some legit books regarding his story (ones that weren't written by the man himself) and come to your own conclusions. As a movie though, it was a good one and comes recommended by yours truly. 8/10.
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bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 01/17/2006, 05:12 PM
Great film, primarily for Denzel Washington's performance, for which he should have won the Best Actor Academy Award. This is one of those uplifting kinds of films, but it works on so many levels. 7.5/10.
Edd #2: Edd - added 07/25/2008, 06:09 PM
The man in this movie is completely real. The only part that wasn't was he was actually guilty, and pleaded to it. 6/10
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