The Hurricane


Directed by: Norman Jewison
Written by:Sam Chaiton
Starring: Denzel Washington, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Deborah Unger, Liev Schreiber, John Hannah, Dan Hedaya
Released: March 16, 2000
Grade: B+

Director Norman Jewison effectively jumps back and forth in time to tell the story of Rubin Carter (played by Denzel Washington).  Rubin grew up in New Jersey where he spent the early years of his life in a youth correctional facility after being found guilty of assaulting a well-respected “white” member of the community.

It was whilst behind bars that he discovered boxing and went on to create an imposing record but lost his chance at a world title under controversial circumstances.  Not long after, he was framed and convicted of two murders and would spend the next 30 years in Trenton State Prison.

Many people would be familiar with the plight of the “Hurricane” and further detail isn’t really required.  Many politicians and celebrities campaigned to have Rubin released over his stint and Bob Dylan penned the famous song that’s echoed three times during the film.

The Hurricane has come under flak for fabricating the truth and misleading the viewer and their viewpoint is a valid one.  The story is told “fairy-tale” like - you can tell who the bad guys are, you can tell who the good guys are and you’d think Rubin was a better man than God based on this interpretation.

This is not a discredit to the film, but it distracts from what should have been a more interesting film rather than an entertaining film.  Jewison chooses to focus half the story on three Canadians and a 15-year-old Negro boy under their care who read of his story and then begin a campaign to clear his name and set him free.

In my eyes, they are the real heroes of this story.  It’s hard to believe four people who had never met Rubin before, trusted his word from day one without question.  It’s a quality that’s lacking in today’s world and leaves you thinking whether you yourself would feel and act the same way.  I feel few of us would.

Denzel Washington is superb and is the clear stand out amongst the cast and his Oscar nomination was surely deserved.  His role encapsulates more than 30 years of his life and the aging and change in the Rubin’s attitude and reflections on life shine through.  The remaining cast is sound but as mentioned earlier, seem a little typecast.

The movie touches on a lot of tempting material that it fails to develop such as the marches and protests to set him free, the prison guard who treats him well, the corruption behind the scenes, and the suffering of his friend who was also convicted of the two murders.  It’s just the interpretation that Jewison chose to take and I personally would have liked to have seen less of the Canadians.

All the gritty, tough material has been passed over and the lighter, rosier, “feel-good” material is substituted.  It has all the characteristics of The Shawshank Redemption - you know from the start he’s not guilty, and you’ll watch in sheer delight as he defeats those that put him away as he rises “back from the dead”.  A film that pulls one too many strings.