|The Hurricane |
Actors: Denzel Washington, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Deborah Kara Unger, Liev Schreiber, John Hannah
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
In his direction of The Hurricane, veteran filmmaker Norman Jewison understands that slavish loyalty to factual detail is no guarantee of compelling screen biography. In telling the story of boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter... more »
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K. K. (GAMER)
Reviewed on 12/24/2018...
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Flawed but powerful drama
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 07/28/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The most startling revelation about Norman Jewison's film `The Hurricane' is that this true-life account of middleweight champion Ruben `Hurricane' Carter turns out to be more about the glories of writing than of boxing. In fact, almost no time at all in the film is dedicated to chronicling the details of Carter's fighting career but rather to the attempts made by him and others on his behalf to prove his innocence in a murder case that resulted in his serving a nearly 20-year long prison sentence.The sympathies of the filmmakers clearly lie with Carter, although a number of people have, since the release of the film, challenged some of the film's reliability and veracity. As one completely unacquainted with the facts of the case as they initially played themselves out, I am certainly in no position to adjudge the authenticity and accuracy of the film. As a piece of drama, however, `The Hurricane' generates an impressive amount of interest in the viewer and even attains emotional greatness in a few scenes. Because the film is trying to come at the story from so many different angles, it occasionally feels a bit like a patchwork - part boxing film, part prison drama, part investigative thriller, part inspirational feel-good drama - rather than a completely unified work of art. And, understandably, the film is more successful in some of those areas than in others.The first half of the film is pretty standard issue stuff. We get, perhaps, a somewhat overly sketchy portrayal of the events in Carter's life before the fateful night in Paterson, NJ when he found himself the prime suspect at a murder scene. We see Carter as an 11-year old boy getting in trouble with the law for defending himself against a pedophile who turns out to be a well-respected and highly placed figure in the local community. This incident introduces him to the Paterson sergeant (Dan Hedaya) who plays the Javert to Carter's Jean Valjean, dedicating his life to seeing that Carter never lives his life outside prison, hounding him out of a misguided sense of self-righteous zeal - an obsession aggravated by the galling fact that Carter has since gone on to achieve international notoriety in the ring. As in many of the early sections of the film, the writers Armyan Bernstein and Dan Gordon fail to portray the incidents in Carter's life in a well-rounded, totally believable way. We find it hard to understand just why this one black child - among a vast number in Paterson one presumes - would fire up this sergeant's passion so intensely. We also are rushed along through Carter's early stints in prison, his time in the military, his rise to fame in the boxing world, sometimes with little more than voice-over excerpts from Carter's novel to inform us of how much he has learned and changed from his experiences. The script is so jumpy at times that we never feel we get to know much about the young Carter at all.Luckily for us, this is not all there is to `The Hurricane.' The writers and director wisely enlarge the canvas of their story to include the teenager, Lesra Martin, whose contact it was with Carter, languishing almost forgotten in prison, that ultimately set the wheels of justice rolling that would lead to Carter's eventual release. And herein lies the real emotional core of the story. Lesra, a near-illiterate inner city boy from Brooklyn, living with some benevolent white liberals in Canada, purchases an old copy of the autobiographical best-selling novel Carter wrote in prison - the first book Lesra has ever read - and becomes so caught up in the similarities to his own life pouring off the pages that he decides to write to Carter in prison. A warm relationship develops between the aging convict and the budding youngster which eventually leads to Lesra's introducing Carter to his mentors who then take up the cause of getting Carter's case overturned. The highlight of the film is clearly the mesmerizing, emotionally riveting first encounter between Lesra and Carter; we sit spellbound as the two hurting individuals grope tentatively towards one another, each seeking that connection with (and recognition from) the other on the common ground of their parallel life experiences that they need so desperately. As the two discuss the liberating effect their writing has on both of them, the film becomes a glorious paean to the power and might of the written word. It is a truly unforgettable scene.Unfortunately, the film only achieves that gripping emotional power a few times afterwards and in each occasion it is the connection between Lesra and Carter that brings it about. The three Canadian activists who take on the case for Carter's innocence remain underdeveloped as characters. We wonder how they can afford to leave their jobs in Canada and dedicate themselves exclusively to Carter's cause. And why are they always together? Do they have any other relationships in their lives or have they taken a vow of celibacy to go along with their social crusading? Their successful attempts to unravel the mystery of what really happened on that night in 1966 are interesting on the level of historicity but these sequences weaken the emotional drama at the film's core. Since we do not get to know these characters as fully fleshed-out human beings, we watch these scenes with an attitude of detached disinterest rather than intense emotional involvement Perhaps, the story of Ruben `Hurricane' Carter is too diverse a one to be successfully encapsulated even in a film that runs an impressive 146 minutes.I realize, of course, that I have not yet mentioned Denzel Washington's impressive performance as Carter. He literally holds the film together since there is virtually no scene in which he is not present. This tour-de-force role allows him to run the emotional gambit from sullen rage and explosive fury to warmhearted tenderness and stoic idealism (and how many 40-something actors could still convincingly portray a man in his early '20's)? Equally impressive, though, is young Vicellous Reon Shannon's work as the disadvantaged but ever idealistic Lesra. Together these two extraordinary actors take `The Hurricane' to impressive emotional heights. This is their film all the way and it undoubtedly does `The Hurricane' himself proud."
Unbiased assessment of the Movie
Bruno P | 03/02/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I actually give this movie two separate ratings. First, solely as a cinematic and artistic story I give the movie a 4, maybe even a 4.5 but as some of the other reviews have pointed out, there are some very large historical inaccuracies. Here is my review on each:
As a movie "The Hurricane" is excellent. Denzel Washington does a great job as do the other actors in this film. It is definitely a tear jerker and helps portray racism which WAS very prevalent during the civil rights movement era. The movie is entertaining and enjoyable, the problem lies with the claim that it is a "true story." The best part of the movie is that it exposes horrible corruption,but when that corruption is possibly false, the movie loses credibility. If it had a different title and was described simply as a story, none of these issues would exist.
I am not a lawyer, or a judge, or anything that has to do with crime. I am an officer in the US Army and hopefully someday a business executive. Therefore, I can not give any "facts" regarding the case. Having said that, there is much controversy over what actually happened. It is definitely true that the image of Rubin Carter in real life differs from what is depicted in the movie as well as the image of his friend, John Artis. What the movie doesn't say is that Carter WAS in fact a criminal before he ever was accused of committing the triple murder, one of his crimes being the brutal beating of three people. Additionally, Carter was court marshaled 4 times and was kicked out of the Army after serving only approx 21 months. After released from prison, friend John Artis was arrested again and convicted for dealing drugs (cocaine.)
Artis and Carter were never declared innocent of the murders, they were released from prison due to an error in the judicial process. I do not know whether Carter and Artis are guilty or innocent and I encourage anyone who becomes interested to do their own research. Be careful what site you get your info from..."graphic witness" for example has been accused of being racist. Check the article about Carter on Wikipedia, it seems more reliable and is from a more trust worthy source.
Lastly, we need to remember that there in fact was much racism in this country at the time and to some degree there still is. Often people don't like to admit it. The truth is that racism may or may not have played a part in Carter's trial and he may be innocent, but he may also be guilty. Either way the movie definitely has some factual errors but hey, it's Hollywood, I mean, the true story of U571 is that the British stole the Enigma machine, unlike the film, the American's were no where to be found.
Take Hollywood with a grain of salt and enjoy the movie as it is a great piece of entertainment and features some excellent actors giving heart touching performances.
This Is NOT The Story Of The Hurricane
Steve Jackson | New England | 08/31/2008
(1 out of 5 stars)
"In June 1966, two men entered a bar and grill in Paterson, New Jersey and opened fire. Two people were killed and one was to die later of injuries. A fourth victim survived.
Eventually arrested for the murders were Rubin "Hurricane" Carter and a friend. Carter was a one-time contender for middle-weight title whose career was on the decline. He had an extensive criminal record.
Carter was tried for murder in 1967 and found guilty. The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed his conviction, and he was put on trial again in 1973. The jury (which had two blacks) found him guilty within a matter of hours. The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the conviction.
In 1988, the federal Court of Appeals affirmed a decision by the District Court that prosecutors had withheld material evidence. New Jersey decided not to try Carter again, believing that a good case couldn't be made after so many years.
Contrary to what Carter and his apologists now say, he was never found innocent or exonerated of the murders.
The prosecution of Carter was not the strongest murder case brought in New Jersey in 1967 or 1973, but there was ample evidence to support a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt, as even the New Jersey Supreme Court (not known for its conservatism) held.
This brings me to "Hurricane." Even by Hollywood standards, the movie takes incredible license with the facts, not only with the trial but also Carter's life.
The production values are excellent and Denzel Washington's performance is outstanding. It does drag at times.
For more information on the case against Carter and this movie's misrepresentations, see Cal Deal's web site.