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HURRICANE, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Based partially on Rubin "Hurricane" Carter's 1974 autobiography, The Sixteenth Round, The Hurricane covers Carter's twenty-two year prison ordeal following his wrongful conviction on three counts of murder. It's 1966 and Carter (Denzel Washington) is the contender for the world middleweight boxing title; he is arrested on three counts of murder. After false testimony is given by known criminals in front of an all-white jury, Carter and a young fan, John Artis (Garland Whitt) who was with him on the night in question, are sentenced to life imprisonment. After winning a retrial and again being convicted, Carter withdraws until Lesra Martin (Vicellous Reon Shannon), a troubled young African-American living in Canada, reads Carter's book and initiates correspondence. Lesra and his three social activist guardians, Lisa Peters (Deborah Kara Unger), Sam Chaiton (Liev Schreiber) and Terry Swinton (John Hannah), dedicate themselves to winning Carter's release, finally achieving success in 1988.

"The music wails at the injustice, it describes joy, hope and despair. Inspired in part by the Bob Dylan song, The Hurricane is the story of a strong individual, a man determined to live on his terms no matter what. Like The Insider – another true story - this gritty film lacks a Hollywood coating, delivering authenticity and the cutting edge. Charismatic Denzel Washington has moulded himself into this role, a remarkable performance filled with contrasts and drama. The progression of kid from the wrong side of the tracks to a champion boxer is remarkable in itself. But the revelation comes from the strength of a man whose conviction for freedom is so strong that he creates it in his imagination. Effective black and white photography is used in the fight flashbacks, showing Rubin (Washington is impressively fit having lost 60lbs and trained solidly with a boxing trainer for a year), as an angry young man, using his body as a weapon. While this is Rubin's story, it is also Lesra's; the heart of the film concentrates on the relationship between these men and how they inspire each other in very different ways. Vicellous Reon Shannon is beautifully cast as Lesra, bringing a poignant innocence into the ring. We learn practically nothing about the real world of Rubin's day to day prison life, the focus being on his mental and emotional state, while the outside world of the Canadians shines through the prison bars like an unreal shaft of sunshine. It's long – and could no doubt be cut – but veteran director Norman Jewison may well have thought its length would emphasise the time, doing the time and our sharing the time. Not to be confused with Morgan J. Freeman's 1996 Sundance Winner, Hurricane, The Hurricane is a riveting and inspiring story – a rewarding journey of strength and perseverance – one that needs to be told."
Louise Keller

"With the lyrics of Bob Dylan's song so firmly etched into the memory, many of us will arrive at The Hurricane feeling as though we already have a stake in this incredible true story. The sense of injustice is punched in immediately with scenes displaying Carter at the height of his powers in the ring - we're meant to feel angry about what was stolen from him and we do. Names like Bello, Bradley and Patty Valentine are ticked off as racist cops led by Della Pesca (Dan Hedaya) fabricate and manipulate evidence which eventually convicts Carter and John Artis, the young fan unfortunate enough to be with his hero on the night of the shooting. The story is so good it's probably harder to make a bad film of it than a good one and for the most part veteran director Norman Jewison does a solid job juggling time lines and contrasting Carter's life in gaol with the work being done on the outside to secure his release. Denzel Washington throws his heart and soul into his work and he's solid most of the way but his habit of delivering lines as if reading from a spin doctor's prepared speech is annoying at times. We can only wonder how high this might have soared with, say, Laurence Fishburn in the lead. Almost upstaging Washington is little known Vicellous Reon Shannon as the semi-literate Lesra whose life changes with the first book he reads. The Hurricane is as much Lesra's story as it Carter's and Shannon (the youngest-looking 28 year old I've ever seen) holds his own impressively with the Hollywood heavyweight. Although the pace drags a little during the 2 1/2 hour running time and we never know as much about the three Canadians as we'd like, The Hurricane is a solid dramatisation of terrible injustice and well worth a look even if you normally run a mile from films which have anything to do with boxing."
Richard Kuipers

"There's nothing better to get the morality valves pumping than a serious injustice waiting to be fixed - especially if it's a true story. Them that's racist, of course, won't care too much for this one, though, being the story of a black boxer being fitted out with murders he didn't commit. Most others, however, will react with the outrage this story deserves - and got. But this story is special for other reasons, too. In fact, it's as if there is a second movie waiting to be made about those reasons: the three young Canadians who take in young Lesra Martin, a poor black kid with a good brain but no prospects, whose discovery of Carter's predicament fuels his ambition to help - and their dedication to turn that help into reality. In a fictional story, these characters may well have been relegated to fanciful creations, but in reality they beg more exploration. As for Denzel Washington's portrayal of Carter, we can't know how accurate it is, but what we can know is how well he reaches us as a credible human being. Perhaps not enough is done to show his weaknesses or faults, but his nobility and strength are inspirational. And maybe in the scheme of things, his weaknesses wouldn't amount to much anyhow. Washington's deserved accolades for this role suggest he did reach an audience with his unrelenting bravery in the face of biting, bitter injustice. Excellent production values add to the film's visual power and the score (as well as the soundtrack) are also powerful aids."
Andrew L. Urban

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

TRAILER

See David Edwards' interview with
DENZEL WASHINGTON

HURRICANE, THE (M) 15+
(US)

CAST: Denzel Washington, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Deborah Unger, Live Schreiber, John Hannah, Dan Hedaya, Debbi Morgan, Clancy Brown, David Paymer, Harris Yulin, Rod Steiger, Garland Whitt

PRODUCERS: Marc Abraham, Irving Azoff, Armyan Bernstein

DIRECTOR: Norman Jewison

SCRIPT: Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, Armyan Bernstein, Dan Gordon

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Roger Deakins

EDITOR: Stephen E. Rivkin

MUSIC: Christopher Young

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Phillip Rosenberg

RUNNING TIME: 155 min

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 16, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: September 5, 2000







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