The Hurricane Norman Jewison
Published Feb 01, 2000Norman Jewison's new film The Hurricane tells the true story of boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter's wrongful imprisonment for murder and his 19-year struggle to overturn the conviction. The first half of the film focuses on Carter's life story until he goes to jail - his early encounters with the law that set up his troubles to come, his success in the boxing ring, the night of the murders and his subsequent arrest, and his struggle to maintain his dignity in prison. The film then shifts gears to focus on the story of Lezra Martin, a formerly illiterate black teenager from New York being home-schooled by three white Torontonians, who learns of Carter's plight when he reads the book Carter wrote in prison. Lezra and his teachers then establish a relationship with Carter and devote their lives to freeing him. Denzel Washington gives a good performance as Rubin Carter, capturing his physical and emotional transformations over the course of the film. Vicellous Reon Shannon, as Lezra Martin, exudes a wonderful naive energy and youthful passion that is a joy to watch. The weakest performance comes from Dan Hedaya, as a one-dimensionally evil, vindictive, racist cop with a personal vendetta against Carter. The script is so well-intentioned that it often borders on earnestness, but thankfully most of the sentimental moments are undercut with humour. It is easy for the viewer to get swept up in this story, wanting justice to prevail, as Carter's case of an individual railroaded by a racist justice system is so clearly morally upright. The more interesting aspect of the film is Carter's own personal struggle to move beyond his well-cultivated anger and hate at the world, which fuelled him to his early successes but eventually begins to stand in the way of his freedom. It is this journey through the anger to his eventual efforts to trust the ones offering him love and support that makes this film compelling.