Directed by Norman Jewison
Running Time: 2:25
Rated R for language and some violence.

While Denzel Washington gives yet another one of his sterling performances in The Hurricane, I didn't think the movie lived up to his performance. The last hour was very enjoyable, but the first hour and a half was slow and unmoving.

Denzel stars as Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a middleweight prizefighter from Paterson, NJ. According to the movie, when he was very young, a racist cop Det. Vincent Della Pesca (Dan Hedaya) put him in prison for just being black. Rubin escapes, joins the military, and returns home, only to be found again by Della Pesca and put back in jail. After he finishes his time, he becomes a champion boxer, only to once again be railroaded by Della Pesca and sent back to prison for the murder of three people in a New Jersey bar. While in prison, Carter writes a book detailing his story. The book reaches the eyes of young Lesra Martin (Vicellous Reon Shannon) in Toronto. After reading the book and communicating with Carter for some time, Lesra and the people taking care of him Terry, Sam and Lisa (John Hannah, Liev Schreiber and Deborah Kara Unger) move down to NJ to win Carter's release. Since this is a true story, it's not giving away much to tell you that after 20 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, Carter is released.

I didn't know anything about the life of Rubin Carter before I saw this movie. But I have read a lot of articles since this movie was released, and the one thing they all said was that the movie cut a lot of corners in the what actually happened department. Not knowing what really did happen, I can't say for sure which was real and which wasn't. But what struck me as odd, and what probably didn't happen, was Della Pesca continually went after Carter for no other reason than he was black. There are two possibilities. One, Della Pesca had a reason to go after Carter and that's why he kept throwing him in jail, or two, what really happened was that racism kept showing its ugly head and Della Pesca is just an amalgam of a lot of different racial forces that kept Carter down. If I were a betting man, I'd go with choice number two. Now while I understand that a film needs to take some liberties with the truth in order to make a more coherent story, or even just to save time, I felt that making one man, and really one man only, be the cause of Carter's problems, took away from the force of the film. It turned what was probably a story of one man fighting an entire system of racism, into a story of one man fighting another man. And to me that made the story too simplistic and easy. We never got to see any other racist person. We heard (and briefly saw) one all-white jury. We heard a lot about another trial, and some appeals, but the only racist person or thing we ever connected with was a single racist cop. I just wish there had been more to that aspect of the story.

Then there was Carter himself, and when I say that, I mean the character on screen, not the person in real life. I didn't feel like I got to know a lot about him personally. I got to know his story, and how he ended up in prison, but I didn't get to know the man. The only thing really said about him was that he was full of violence and hate, and that he used all that to become a great boxer. The movie went straight from him being sent to prison, to what I called a "reading is fundamental" story with Lesra. For a while I honestly thought I was watching a TV commercial saying that children should learn to read because of the amazing stories you can find in the world. After Lesra and his crew got involved however, the movie did start to pick up the pace, especially after they all move to NJ to help the cause. Maybe it's because I never did much in high school, but I found it hard to believe that a high school kid in Toronto would read a book about a man in jail, and decide to try and help him. The movie says it's because Lesra felt he and Carter had similar backgrounds, but even still, I have to give the kid props for doing what he did. And I think that's what gave Carter the will to go on. That some young man he never met wanted to help him out, just out of the goodness of his heart.

And there is the reason this movie was in the end a good movie. The performances. First and foremost, Denzel Washington. Is there really any question he is one of the top actors living today? No other actor I know really becomes the character. I still think that the greatest acting performance I have ever seen was by Denzel in Malcolm X and much like that performance, Denzel becomes Rubin Carter. You don't see Denzel anymore, you only see the character on the screen. I also thought Hedaya played the role of the racist cop very well. He was very easy to hate, and that basically was his only role. Vicellous Reon Shannon, whom I don't remember seeing before, also did a very good job as Lesra.

So overall, I thought The Hurricane was an OK movie, that was made better by Denzel Washington. I think he's a shoo-in for an Academy Award nomination, but I'm not so sure I'd agree if the movie got nominated. But it's a still a good movie to go see. Choose your favorite Denzel Washington performance - take this week's Poll Question.

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