The Hurricane

Lazarus and the Hurricane: Lesra and Rubin (Shannon and Washington) find a surprising bond that changes both their lives.
dir Norman Jewison
scr Armyan Bernstein, Dan Gordon
with Denzel Washington, Vicellous Reon Shannon, John Hannah, Liev Schreiber, Deborah Kara Unger, Dan Hedaya, Clancy Brown, David Paymer, Rod Steiger, Debbi Morgan, Harris Yulin, Badja Djola
Universal 99/US 3 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Bob Dylan sang, "Here comes the story of The Hurricane," back in 1975 and it took another quarter century for the story to hit the big screen with the help of veterans like Jewison (In the Heat of the Night) and Bernstein (One from the Heart). This is an astonishing true story about injustice on a grand scale ... and trust on a small one. Yet the film itself never quite rises above a standard movie bio.

Rubin "Hurricane" Carter (Washington) was on his way to being the middleweight boxing champ when in 1966 he was arrested for a triple murder he couldn't have committed. He was convicted, given three life sentences and after nearly 20 years gave upon the appeal process. Then a Toronto teenager named Lezra (Shannon) read his autobiography and asked his three guardians (Hannah, Unger and Schreiber) for help to look into Carter's case. They move to New Jersey and start digging, eventually uncovering the corrupt cop (Hedaya) behind it all.

With such a compelling story and a powerful central performance from Washington, the film does work on several levels. Especially as Carter is forced to lower the walls he has built around himself to let Lesra and his friends help him. It's an impeccably made film, with an authentic attention to detail and a careful attempt to look under the surface and avoid corny heartwarming moments (mostly). On the other hand, there's nothing that remarkable--no real sharpness in the writing or direction, nothing terribly insightful and, most notably, no honest emotional connection with the characters. And that Dylan song makes about three too many appearances on the soundtrack. All in all, the film comes across as an ambitious TV movie--a story that definitely must be told, but with a bit more raw skill could have been told much more cleverly and effectively.

[15--themes, violence, language] 14.Jan.00
US release 24.Dec.99; UK release 24.Mar.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall