Thursday, October 4, 2012


(December 1999, U.S.)

Last night I watched Norman Jewison's THE HURRICANE for the first time since originally buying the DVD many years ago. In doing a little extra research for my blog post, I discovered that there are a lot of controversial accusations out there that discredit the premise of the film that Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was as innocent a man as the film claims him to be. Thankfully, it's not my job nor my concern to proclaim the man's history of innocence or guilt for the crimes he was accused of committing. The film is my concern and clearly it's one I enjoy.

The first thing I have to bring to the table is the outstanding performance of Denzel Washington, one that's only second to his portrayal of Malcom X in Spike Lee's 1992 film. You watch a character like Rubin Carter come to life on the screen and you can't help but wonder why Washington would even bother to make films like UNSTOPPABLE or that silly remake of THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 (blame the late Tony Scott, perhaps).

The film tells the story of the middleweight boxer whose conviction for a New Jersey triple murder was set aside after he had spent almost 20 years in prison. Washington narrates Carter's life and the film basically concentrates on the period between 1966 and 1985, when he was finally released from prison. The fight sequences are brilliantly shot in black and white to focus on the rage, hate and even pride that drives Carter to survive the turmoils of his life. In a parallel plot, there's an underprivileged youth from Brooklyn, Lesra Martin (played by Vicellous Reon Shannon), who becomes interested in Carter's life and destiny after reading the man's autobiography, and convinces his Canadian foster family to commit themselves to his ongoing and seemingly hopeless case. Circumstances culminate with Carter's legal team's successfully pleading the lastleg of the case to a federal judge who will finally listen (he's played by Rod Steiger) to the new evidence presented and allow justice to prevail to a man wrongfully accused and imprisoned.

Without bothering to try to conclude what is true or false in this story, one of the elements I find intruiging is how Carter is able to successfully isolate himself from the general population of the prison. I don't know the details of true prison life (thankfully!) but this is the first so-called prison film where I've ever seen something like that happen to a prisoner. As Carter himself puts it in the film, the fate of most inmates in general population is to get stabbed or raped in the shower. How he avoided all that, I'll never know. More power to him, I suppose.

In telling the story of one man's fight for freedom and justice, THE HURRICANE rides to outstanding glory with an incredible performance from its star and it's supporting cast, even by actor Dan Hedaya, who portrays the biggest piece of shit police detective I've ever seen on film. You can truly feel Carter's hate for this man because you long to hate him, too; and you do, quite successfully.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Rubin Carter: "Hate put me in prison. Love's gonna bust me out."
Lesra Martin: "Just in case love doesn't, I'm gonna bust you outta here!"

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