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    review by Peter Jordan                   Full Review List


I recently got "The Hurricane" out on 5 day rental from Blockbuster and nearly returned it on the fifth night without watching it because I felt it seemed like a LOOOOOOONG movie (about 2hrs 24 mins not counting credits) to sit through at 10.30 at night.

However I'm glad I persevered because "The Hurricane" is a very good movie and an inspiring biopic of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter whom I had only brief previous knowledge of, predominantly through Bob Dylan's excellent narrative song "The Hurricane".

"The Hurricane" contains considerable parallel's to other similar fictional and factual accounts, most notably "In the Name of the Father" and "The Shawshank Redemption", of people wrongly accused, convicted and incarcerated for murder and their subsequent efforts to both survive the ordeal and prove their innocence.

Denzel Washington gives a sterling and Oscar nominated performance of Rubin Carter over a thirty year period, from his initial youthful run in's with a vengeful, grudge bearing and corrupt detective, through his boxing career and his bid for the world middleweight boxing crown followed by his framing and long imprisonment for a New Jersey bar room triple murder.

Rubin Carter was one of those cause celebre's a la Nelson Mandela, The Birmingham Six and The Guilford Four all of whom attracted considerable public attention, high profile personalities and a series of failed appeals which, it would seem if the movie and Bob Dylan's song are true, if they were to succeed would have meant exposing a deep rooted racism and corruption within the New Jersey police and the judicial system that went right to the top.

Even within the movie itself, the point is made that even though Rubin's cause has managed to gain attention and many high profile supporters including Muhammad Ali and the aforementioned Dylan, very few have really managed to stay the course and stick with it doggedly over a twenty year span which has seen the failure of two appeals and even a biography penned by Carter within prison ("The 19th Round") laying out his claim for innocence and the trail of events that got him to where he is.

It is out of this biography, long discarded and battered and published so long ago that it's been forgotten by most, that Reuben's hope for clearing his name is reawakened, in the hands of a barely literate young black refugee from the Bronx called Lesra Martin who has himself been taken under the benevolent wing of a threesome of somewhat idealistic, hippyish, but well intentioned Canadians in Toronto. Lesra chooses the battered volume as his first ever book purchase attending a used book sale with his Canadian friends. In another parallel, right from the start, Lesra finds similarities and something of a soulmate in reading about the life and fate of "The Hurricane". Eventually the story so inspires and motivates young Lesra that he kick-starts a new campaign to get Rubin freed and succeeds in enlisting the help of his Canadian friends to do so.

Admittedly, whilst the goodie goodie and over idealistic, even bordering on sinister, intentions of the Canadian threesome are at times somewhat unbelievable (They live in a sort of a threesome commune, surviving apparently quite comfortably renovating and selling houses, have plucked a young black kid from the streets of the Bronx and out of the grasp of his alcoholic parents, merely because they believe in him and feel he "deserves a chance" in life and NOW, along with their young black friend, they uproot their lives to move from Toronto to New Jersey "for as long as it takes" to prove Rubin's innocence) yet there is quite the air of realism in aspects of the difficulties and dilemmas they encounter such as the harassment (apparently very much truth based) they get from senior forces in New Jersey, but most significantly during their first visit to Rubin in prison. Indeed this is one area of the movie that pulls no punches and doesn't attempt any major makeover of Rubin's character. The Canadian's are subjected to his full wrath and venom and all the hateful spewing of an oppressed black man that has through experience come to hate all white men and everything they stand for. Of course like Gerry Conlon in "In the Name of the Father" his character isn't overtly polished or sanctified either. He has had his brushes with the law, all be it, if we are to believe the film at least, unprovoked. His swaggering, intimidatory ways and arrogance (though he terms it "pride") and indeed his real life temper are touched upon at least, albeit minimally most notably in a scene where he meets his future wife. However even with all this, Washington's portrayal of the Hurricane is so touching and sympathetic that one does come to respect and like this guy and to feel really sorry and angry at the way he has been wronged.

Possibly the major achievement of this movie is its documentation of one mans near descent into madness and total despair when the only way he can survive in the end is to retreat deep into himself and completely shut off the outside world (Something that Tom Hanks never even came near to projecting in Castaway!!). It is a credit to the talent of Denzel Washington as an actor the way he carries this portrayal off so convincingly (Indeed - Like Daniel Day Lewis before him he was said to have completely absorbed himself in the role preparing for it for over a year and participating in upward of one hundred sparring rounds in the ring). However whilst it may take all of his inner composure to survive and stay sane, it will take much more and the efforts and perseverance of others outside to prove his innocence. This is essentially what the last third of the movie deals with and similar to other "based on a true story" movies it has attracted some criticism of how events and incidences were condensed and manipulated to suit the plot and lead to the desired outcome.

That aside, and considering I still know much less about the Hurricane case than say I do of The Guildford Four, this is an emotive movie about major miscarriages of justice and the necessity for perseverance of hope within utter despair and indeed for perseverance full stop.

I also particularly liked the sound track of this move, which predictably enough featured Dylan's song along with some other jammin' tracks particularly the one about "the revolution".

Finally as a point of trivia, this movie stars one Clancy Brown, reprising his role from Shawshank Redemption as a prison guard, all be it this time a sympathetic one who treats Reuben with the respect and dignity he desires right from the start, as opposed to the brutal figure he played in Shawshank.

Overall, but largely for Denzel Washington's portrayal of The Hurricane, I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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