True story of wrongfully imprisoned middleweight boxer Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, based on his own autobiography and the testimony of those who helped to obtain his release. In 1973, Carter (Denzel Washington) languishes in jail, having been falsely accused and convicted of murdering three whites in a New Jersey ballroom. The man responsible for his arrest is corrupt white detective Vincent Della Pasca (Dan Hedaya), who has already had Carter imprisoned twice before on jumped up charges. When young black boy Lesra Martin (Vicellous Reon Shannon) reads Carter's autobiography, he is moved to campaign for his release. Supported by Canadian educationalists Terry (John Hannah), Lisa (Deborah Kara Unger) and Sam (Liev Schreiber), Lesra manages to obtain an appeal, but when this goes against him Carter begins to lose hope of ever clearing his name.
In his direction of The Hurricane
, veteran filmmaker Norman Jewison understands that slavish loyalty to factual detail is no guarantee of compelling screen biography. In telling the story of boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter--who was wrongly convicted of murder in 1967 and spent nearly two decades in jail--Jewison and his screenwriters compress time, combine characters, and rearrange events with a nonchalance that would be galling if they didn't remain honest to the core truth of Carter's ordeal. Because of that emotional integrity--and because Denzel Washington brings total conviction to his title role--The Hurricane
rises above the confines of biographical fidelity to embrace higher values of courage, compassion, and ultimate justice.
Jewison is woefully heavy-handed in his treatment of the fictionalised, absurdly villainous detective (Dan Hedaya) who zealously plots to keep Carter in jail, and anyone familiar with Carter's story may object to the film's simplified account. But what matters here is the shining star of hope that is Lesra (Vicellous Reon Shannon), the Brooklyn teenager who rejuvenates Carter's legal battle in the early 1980s. This surrogate father-son relationship is what revives Carter's hope for family and future, and makes The Hurricane so engrossing and emotionally effective. Lesra's real-life Canadian mentors are compressed from nine characters to three, but their efforts are superbly dramatised, and Jewison hits the small but important grace notes that make a good film even better. By its final scenes, The Hurricane conveys the rich, rewarding satisfaction of surviving a difficult but valuable journey of mind, body, and soul.--Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com