Denzel's Performance Overcomes Films Flaws.
Christopher J. Jarmick | Seattle, Wa. USA | 01/04/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Norman Jewison has officially become the new Stanley Kramer with Hurricane. Jewison has made preachy, dull, message pictures like 'In Country' or poor adaptations of stage plays like 'Agnes of God' or over-long and not as good as they should be wanna-be-classics like 'Fiddler on the Roof' or utter misfires like 'F.I.S.T.' And He's also helmed some well liked films like Jesus Christ Superstar, Rollerball, And 'Justice for All', 'Other People's Money' and 'Best Friends.' He's also the director of Moonstruck and the original Thomas Crown Affair, The Cincinatti Kid, The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming,His best films: 'In the Heat of the Night', and 'A Soldier's Story' have a winning combination of pure Hollywood gloss, and well captured realistic details which manage to deal with controversial subjects in entertaining and engrossing ways. They pretend they aren't preaching to the audience, but wind up leading them down paths toward somewhat liberal politically correct views. Nothing wrong with that. Artists often have agendas and why shouldn't screenwriters and directors, particularly when often the agenda involves dealing with or over-coming racism with understanding, compassion, tolerance and love.It's also worth noting that more often than not the lead and/or supporting actors in Jewison films give wonderful performances for which they are nominated and sometimes win Academy Awards for.The Hurricane is not the best film Norman Jewison has made, but it is certainly a worthwhile one. He uses Rubin Hurricane Carter's story to again tell us that "words are mightier than swords and love really does conquer all". It's not the most earth shattering of messages but it certaintly bears repeating.Denzel Washington's powerful performance overcomes the films considerable, though predictable flaws. And much of it works very well. Several scenes would have been drastically improved if they were cut short by about 15 to 30 seconds to avoid some unnecessary last lines of dialogue or reaction shots which denuded the scenes impact or even made the scene feel like it was following a television friendly structure and we're cutting to a commercial now. There were however several moments which were caught perfectly. Jewison can be very good at choosing moments to add just the right kind of emotional impact to a scene. A well placed shot of some clouds in a sky has deep meaning when it's connected properly to the right character at the right moment. Unfortunately, Jewison can also be very heavy handed in re-stating the obvious. An establishing shot which lingers on the scales of justice just isn't necessary for instance.The film has one foot firmly planted in the traditional Hollywood type biographical film, which keeps it's story fairly simple, easy to follow and with clearly drawn lines of right and wrong, good and bad, fairness and injustice etc. etc. Yes most everything in the film has been overly simplified. iSure, we see that Rubin was an angry black man full of hate. We also see he's a boxer who channels that energy into his sport. And while he doesn't begin the film as a completely sympathetic character we know enough of the story almost immediately that we get to know the film version of Rubin from a very particular viewpoint. It's not uncommon for movie biographies to do this though. Most movie biographies frame their subjects in the best of lights of course, but the film pretends to be balanced. It's not. The error here is that it thinks it has a duty to try to be somewhat balanced and so when it fails to do so, you have got to consider it a flaw. I would expect, since it is not a documentary there would be inconsistencies and inacuracies. And that many liberties will be taken with real life characters. In truth there were a group of 7 Canadians along with Lezra (the young african-american boy who befriended Rubin), whose efforts wound up re-opening Carter's trial in the mid 80's which lead to his release. In the movie the seven are turned into a composite character of three Canadians and we aren't sure if the two guys are sleeping with the one woman, or if they are indeed friends, business partners and roomates. It's referred to as a commune a couple of times, but communes are made up of more than three people. You can quibble about many minor details in the film, but the film's message is positive and it's an effective and entertaining film. I think for most, the film will work beautifully. It will be upon a second viewing that one can choose to let the films flaws bother them a great deal, or to easily over-look them because the films story and message is an important one to remember. I'm happy to report the DVD is full of worthwhile extras. The obligatory Behind the Scenes featurette is better than most because we get to see and hear the real life Rubin Carter and Lezra. There are also several deleted scenes, nicely introduced by Norman Jewison who comes across as a pretty friendly if slightly condescending film-maker who found it difficult to cut some of the scenes he shares with us from the film. None of the scenes were absolutely necessary and a few have the same flaws as many in the film do (not ending a few seconds earlier to make things sharper and less t.v. movie-ish), but these are indeed pretty good scenes .Chris Jarmick, Author of The Glass Cocoon with Serena F. Holder-a steamy cyber- thriller ...)"