The Hurricane Review
By James Brundage
If anyone even dares to hum the lyrics of the Bob Dylan song, I'm going to have to kill them. All right. So this is an empty threat. I have zero way of knowing whether or not you are humming the Bob Dylan song just to spite me, but please don't do it anyway. After seeing The Hurricane, I have Bob Dylan stuck in my head.
In fact, Bob Dylan and Denzel Washington are about the only things stuck in my head after that movie... that and enormous sense of racial injustice and a newfound respect for the residents of Toronto.
The Hurricane is the story of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, welterweight champion who was wrongfully imprisoned for a triple-murder that he didn't commit. To clear this up to younger readers, this actually happened. Although the wrongfully-imprisoned genre film is terribly passé at this point in time, having a falsely accused man in prison is something worth making into a movie again.
The question, walking into The Hurricane, was whether making a "wrongfully accused" movie is a viable option after the genre has been sucked dry by fictional (or semi-fictional) counterparts such as The Fugitive, U.S. Marshals, Double Jeopardy, and Wrongfully Accused.
To its credit, The Hurricane shows us that such a film is possible.
Most of the credit in this case goes to Denzel Washington, who I now am absolutely sure deserved the Golden Globe he won for Best Actor. Washington is in flawless form here, pushing every emotional button in the book. He is able to take a character that would otherwise be contrived and make it into something new and impressive. The film is carried squarely on Washington's shoulders, and the result is a potentially terrible film is turned into something that jerks a tear or two out of even the most heartless of viewer (or critic).
The big flaws in the movie come in the form of the writers, who are dead-set convinced that the story of Rubin Carter (which, face it, would have been better as a documentary) needed a little extra oomph. To add said oomph, the film takes poetic license and creates a corrupt cop (Den Heyada) out of thin air. To add even more oomph, the film takes more poetic license with the do-good Canucks (Schrieber, Unger, and Hannah), who are portrayed as the major detectives of the film. Being as the film is more based-on-a-true story than actual biopic, the Canucks are placed in a large degree of artificial danger from a possibly imaginary web of New Jersey corruption stretching all of the way up to Christie Todd Whitman (all right, to whomever was New Jersey's governor at the time). We know the Garden State is screwy, but not that screwy.
Said poetic license, contrived events and characters, make The Hurricane terribly difficult for anyone who is an admirer of Rubin Carter to take easily. Scorsese fans, on the other hand, will be undoubtedly pissed by the Raging Bull knock-offs that pose as fight scenes.
In the end, however, when all is said and done, Denzel Washington has made pearls out of swine. Without Denzel Washington, The Hurricane would just be another contrived prison-drama, whether or not it actually happened.
Coulda been a contender.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 14th January 2000
Box Office Worldwide: $50.7M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Universal Pictures, Azoff Entertainment, Beacon Communications
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 94 Rotten: 19
Cast & Crew
Starring: Denzel Washington as Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, Vicellous Reon Shannon as Lesra Martin, Deborah Kara Unger as Lisa Peters, Liev Schreiber as Sam Chaiton, John Hannah as Terry, Dan Hedaya as Della Pesca, Debbi Morgan as Mae Thelma, Clancy Brown as Lt. Jimmy Williams, David Paymer as Myron Bedlock, Harris Yulin as Leon Friedman, Rod Steiger as Judge Sarokin, Badja Djola as Mobutu, Vincent Pastore as Alfred Bello, Al Waxman as Warden, David Lansbury as U.S. Court Prosecutor, Garland Whitt as John Artis, Chuck Cooper as Earl Martin, Brenda Denmark as Alma Martin (as Brenda Thomas Denmark), Marcia Bennett as Jean Wahl, Beatrice Winde as Louise Cockersham, Mitchell Taylor Jr. as Young Rubin Carter, Bill Raymond as Paterson Judge, Merwin Goldsmith as Judge Larner, John A. MacKay as Man at Falls, Donnique Privott as Boy at the Falls, Moynan King as Tina Barbieri, Gary DeWitt Marshall as Nite Spot Cabbie, John Christopher Jones as Reporter at Bar, Gwendolyn Mulamba as Nite Spot Woman, Richard Davidson as Paterson Detective, George T. Odom as Big Ed (as George Odom), Tonye Patano as Woman at Prison, Fulvio Cecere as Paterson Policeman, Phillip Jarrett as Soldier #1 in U.S.O. Club, Rodney 'Bear' Jackson as Soldier #2 in U.S.O. Club (as Rodney M. Jackson), Judi Embden as Woman in U.S.O. Club, Terry Claybon as Emile Griffith, Ben Bray as Joey Giardello, Michael Justus as Joey Cooper, Kenneth McGregor as Detective at Hospital, Frank Proctor as Pittsburgh Ring Announcer, Peter Wylie as Pittsburgh Referee, David Gray as Pittsburgh TV Announcer, Joe Matheson as Philadelphia Ring Announcer, Bill Lake as Philadelphia TV Announcer, Robin Ward as Reading, PA. TV Announcer, Harry Davis as Reading, PA. Referee, Pippa Pearthree as Patty Valentine, Jean Daigle as Detective, Rob Evans as Detective at Lafayette Bar (as Robert Evans), Scott Gibson as Reporter at Banquet, Ann Holloway as Cashier, Bruce McFee as Prison Guard, Conrad Bergschneider as Prison Guard, Peter Graham as Prisoner with Camera, Satori Shakoor as Prison Guard, Zoran Radusinovic as Prison Guard, Stephen Lee Wright as Prison Guard, Michael Bodnar as Prison Guard, Carson Manning as Prison Guard, Debrah Ellen Waller as Prison Guard, Richard Litt as Prison Guard, Adam Large as Prison Guard, George Masswohl as Mechanic, Lawrence Sacco as New Jersey Policeman, David Frisch as New Jersey Policeman, Ralph Brown as Federal Court Assistant Prosecutor, Dyron Holmes as Reporter, Ryan Williams as Elstan Martin (as Ryann Williams), Bruce Vavrina as St. Joseph's Doctor, Brenda Braxton as Dancer with John Artis, Christopher Riordan as Jury Foreman