The Hurricane

The Hurricane

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

This is not a boxing movie. It is a prison movie. Rubin Carter came from a poor black family. "The kindest thing I can say about my childhood is that I survived it."

He spent the majority of his teenage years in reform school. After that it was prison. "I didn't speak English. I spoke hate." And then he changed. He started reading black writers. "I made up my mind to turn my body into a weapon." He became a pugilist - "Hurricane" Carter - and was a contender for the world middleweight title.

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One evening, in the summer of '66, two men entered a bar in Paterson, New Jersey, and opened fire with shot guns. Three white people died. Carter and a young fan, called John Artis, were questioned by cops at a gas station on their way home from a club. "We're looking for two negroes in a white car," they said. "Any two will do?" Carter quipped.

They were arrested, charged and convicted. Each received three life sentences. Later, it conspired that a racist detective (Dan Hedaya) had allegedly doctored the evidence.

This is a film about injustice. It does not pretend to be anything else. It is also the story of a friendship of an African American teenager (Vicellous Reon Shannon), living in a house in Toronto with white middle class property developers who decide to concentrate their energies on reopening the Carter case.

Norman Jewison made such memorable movies as In The Heat Of The Night, The Cincinnati Kid and the original Thomas Crown Affair. None match the intensity, or power of this one, dominated, as it is, by a compelling, passionate, thoughtful and unforgiving performance from Denzel Washington.

There has been controversy concerning the biased nature of the film, which apparently overlooks crucial facts and fictionalises others. Perhaps, for that reason, Washington was denied the Oscar he so richly deserved.

For all its niggly faults - the Canadians, who include a baffled John Hannah, are too lightly sketched - and worrying omissions, The Hurricane is superbly made, intelligently written (Armyan Bernstein, Dan Gordon) and beautifully photographed (Roger Deakins).

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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The Hurricane packshot
Story of boxer Rubin Carter.
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Director: Norman Jewison

Writer: Armyan Bernstein, Dan Gordon

Starring: Denzel Washington, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Deborah Kara Unger, Liev Schreiber, John Hannah

Year: 1999

Runtime: 145 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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