• "the hurricane" a film of Norman Jewison 1999


    Running time: 112 mins
    Starring: Denzel Washington, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Deborah Unger, Liev Schreiber, John Hannah, Dan Hedaya, Clancy Brown, David Paymer, Rod Steiger

    As true stories go, The Hurricane certainly has all the necessary ingredients: an innocent man victimized by a corrupt system; a fight for freedom spanning almost 20 years and a David and Goliath courtroom battle which finally redresses the balance.

    Unfortunately, Norman Jewison's earnest and worthy film poses more questions than it answers, and paints some of its characters in such broad strokes that one has to question where the truth ends and artistic licence begins.

    The film begins in 1966 with the arrest of middleweight boxer Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter (Denzel Washington) and a companion for the murders of three people in a downtown New Jersey bar. Both men pleaded their innocence but the detective in charge of the case, Vincent Della Pesca (Dan Hedaya), who had harboured a grudge against Carter since childhood, framed both men for the crime and they were sentenced to three life terms in prison.

    Racked with frustration and despair, Carter decided to channel his energies into writing his life story from his cell, producing a bestselling autobiography, The Sixteenth Round, which prompted two failed appeals and Bob Dylan to write a song in his name.

    After 19 years behind bars, alienated teenager Lesra Martin (Vicellous Reon Shannon) read Carter's book and became was so moved by the case, that he put in motion a new appeal which would, ultimately, set Carter free.

    There's no doubting Washington's commitment to the role. He spent more than a year preparing for The Hurricane, losing 60lbs in weight and working tirelessly for months with fight co_ordinator Terry Claybon to choreograph the exhilarating boxing matches which open the film.

    For the most part, his performance simmers rather than boils, changing very little in tone during the 20 year period chronicled in the film (the only visible clue to the passing of time is flecks of grey in his moustache and beard).

    There are moments when Washington really catches fire - notably in the prison scenes when his personality appears to fracture under the strain - but these are few and far between.

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