The Hurricane

The Hurricane is the touching new movie from Norman Jewison (Other People's Money, Only You), based on the true story of boxer Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter. In 1967, Carter and John Artis were thrown in jail for breaking into a bar in New Jersey and killing three people. Carter and Artis maintained their innocence to no avail. Many years later, a young African-American, Lesra Martin, reads Carter's autobiography, The Sixteenth Round, and is profoundly moved by the story. Together, Martin and a group of Canadians befriend Carter and set in motion events that led to the exoneration of Carter and Artis in 1988. The story of the movie comes from both Carter's autobiography and Lazarus and the Hurricane by Sam Chaiton and Terry Swinton, a book that chronicles the relationship between Martin and Carter.

Carter's (Denzel Washington, The Bone Collector, The Seige) life unfolds before the screen as Martin (Vicellous Reon Shannon, Mighty Ducks 2, Can't Hardly Wait) reads The Sixteenth Round. The audience is privy to scenes from Carter's childhood, and events that led up to his arrest and imprisonment. There are also some Raging Bull-esque boxing sequences, and Martin lives in Canada with Swinton (John Hannah, The Mummy, Sliding Doors), Chaiton (Liev Schreiber, A Walk on the Moon, RKO 281) and Lisa Peters (Deborah Kara Unger, The Game, Payback) who are teaching him how to read. Martin aspires to go to college, but the environment at his home is not promising. In Canada, with constant supervision, Martin hopes to build the skills he needs. Martin writes a letter to Carter, and Carter surprisingly responds. Their friendship progresses to the point where Martin begins visiting Carter. Along the way, Carter also touches Swinton, Chaiton, and Peters. The four of them move to the United States, and begin looking for ways to prove Carter's innocence.

The movie succeeds when it focuses on the story of Carter and Martin. The effect that Carter's words have on Martin is touching; their relationship is akin to a father and his son. Martin's tenacity and persistence wins over his friends and Carter, and is conveyed with touching emotion. However, this only takes up about half of the movie. The first half deals with the life of Carter. Although it is fascinating, some of it seems tedious and only sets up the latter portions of the film. These biographical portions are missing the depth of feeling that is present throughout the second half of the movie. The Hurricane also demonstrates why Washington is one of the finest actors today. His Carter is noble and proud, yet oddly sad. Washington's intensity and determination help carry the film. Shannon's public profile should also take a big step up; the job he does is also good. Schreiber, Hannah and Peters are not given enough screen time to make any difference, though the little time they have is not wasted. Dan Hedaya (Dick, A Civil Action) as Carter's nemesis Detective Vincent Delia Pesca is too one-dimensional. He is the reason behind Carter's troubles, but the movie does little to explain his motivations. Above all, The Hurricane works because of its emotions, both the horrible ignorance and prejudices of Delia Pesca and the hope and love of Martin.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 5 minutes, Rated R for language and some violence.

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