Denzel Washington brings Ruben Carter to life in The Hurricane, based on the true story about the middleweight boxing champion. He earned an Oscar-nomination for this film and deserved it.
Before seeing this film, I didn't know much if anything about Ruben Carter. Actually, I didn't even know who he was (it was slightly before my time). In fact, I didn't even know whether he was released from prison or not, although I began to get an idea as I watched the movie.
As mentioned earlier, Denzel Washington has the starring role, and he does a terrific job. He is the real driving force of the movie, presenting a realistic and human character while not backing down from his role as the big boxer. Washington's skills are put to the test as he has to vary between every emotion possible. Washington is supported by several good cast members, including Liev Schreiber, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Deborah Unger, John Hannah, and Dan Hedaya. I especially liked Hedaya's as the racist police officer.
The Canadians that help Carter (all those mentioned above except for Hedaya) do a good job but the movie doesn't work for them perfectly. They have a change in heart in three scenes, and it seems really too fast. What I mean by this is: In one scene, Shannon is telling everyone that he wants to help and meet Carter, and the rest of them don't really see the point. In the second scene, all four of them are at the prison talking to Carter. They say that they all believe his story and want to help them, and he sort of blows them over. And then, in another scene, they are all working together. These Canadians sure latch on quickly to a man they don't even know.
Basically, the Canadians were the only problem I had with the film. Their characters all seemed a little too anxious to help Carter, as if they had known him all their lives and were just trying to get an old friend out of jail. It seems unrealistic that they sacrificed their life style for a man convicted of three counts of murder. But The Hurricane is a true story, so I guess that's roughly how it goes.
The direction is superb. Norman Jewison, who also helmed the terrific The Fiddler on the Roof, brings his ability to present prejudice to the Civil Rights era blacks. The first fifteen minutes are especially well done as the scene jumps between several timelines, showing Carter in the ring, in jail, and getting arrested. There are several flashbacks throughout the movie and all are pretty seamless.
My only little annoyance with the script and the layout of the film is the scene where Washington is in "the hole" and he is talking to himself, almost like the good and bad consciences. I know some critics praised Washington's ability to make this scene show Carter's strength without making him seem crazy, but I saw him as being crazy (he's talking to himself, isn't he?). Still, it's sort of clever.
Furthermore, I would have liked to have seen Carter's ex-wife near the end of the movie. And what about their son? Didn't they have a son? He was sort of forgotten after Carter went to jail.
With a few very minor flaws, The Hurricane is a sight to behold. It looks like, feels like, and is a great movie.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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