Click here 4 and a half stars

This is the story
of the man named

Denzel Washington tells
the touching true story
of an extraordinary man
and an extraordinary injustice

Denzel Washington
"The Hurricane"

Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla

(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)

One of the most notorious injustices of the 20th century was the incarceration of boxer and former middleweight champion Rubin "Hurricane" Carter (powerfully portrayed by Denzel Washington). Sentenced to three consecutive life sentences for the murders of three white people in the Lafayette Bar in Patterson, New Jersey, Carter — a proud man — loudly proclaimed his innocence but remained jailed for more than 20 years. Corruption, racial prejudice and legal chicanery kept him there.

In his cell, Carter, a strong-spirited intellectual, deprived himself of everything that could potentially be taken away from him, retaining only his heart, his mind and his soul — things that were his alone to control. Shutting out all those who loved him, Carter's pride and dignity created a prison for himself of a different kind, one which allowed him to survive his ordeal. Still, even those strong walls he created for himself were crumbling in the insidious bonds of despair.

Into his life comes young Lezra Martin (Vicellous Reon Shannon), a young man deeply touched by Carter's prison-penned autobiography. Martin had been "adopted" by three white Canadian idealists (Liev Schreiber of the Scream trilogy, John "The Mummy" Hannah and Deborah "Payback" Unger), who taught the young black Martin how to read and write. Martin is moved to write to Carter, who begins a correspondence with him. He gives Carter hope - hope quickly dashed by the New Jersey courts.

Realizing that their new friend can't survive much longer in prison, the Canadians and Lesra move to New Jersey, determined to free Carter. Despite the scarcity of witnesses willing to testify, despite the coldness of the trail they follow and despite veiled threats of bodily harm, they soldier on, convinced of Carter's innocence. They find the evidence they seek ... but is it enough to free a man who has by now become a liability to the corrupt officials who originally imprisoned him?

DVD notes

Everything Carlos says about this film is right-on. It is powerfully moving, very touching, and the performances are excellent. The DVD features wonderful commentary from director Norman Jewison. I especially liked his friendly explanations of the trimmed scenes that can be seen on the DVD, including his sheepish wish with some that he had left them in the final cut. He can blame nobody else; he has final cut in his contract. This is a controversial film; some criticize it for taking liberties with the historical record, including using composite characters. And it's easy to find web sites proclaiming that Carter really was guilty and should still be in prison. But it is wonderful filmmaking, and a fine home view.

— John Orr

Washington is sensational as Carter. He is absolutely riveting to watch, portraying one of the most complex individuals ever seen on the screen. He is a young man filled with rage and hatred; he is a middle-aged man dead to all emotion, he is an older man filled with wisdom and enlightenment. He grows throughout the course of this movie, and rings true every step of the way. Whenever he is onscreen, you can't take your eyes off him.

This is a very affecting movie; Da Queen gave it three hankies, and would have made it four but ran out of napkins. Everyone in the theater was snuffling, particularly during a late-in-the-movie exchange between Carter and Martin. The supporting cast is swell too; Schreiber, Hannah and Unger are terrific, Dan Hedaya as a cop and Rod Steiger as a judge are fantastic, but Shannon is a real find; this young man is going to be collecting some Oscars himself someday if I'm not mistaken.

The problems here are minor; for one thing, the movie drags during the middle portion when Carter adjusts to his imprisonment; also, Carter is sometimes too good to be true. In real life, he was a man prone to violence and very suspicious of whites. He had problems controlling his temper and was sometimes thug-like in his behavior. Still, while some of his faults are alluded to, Carter remains a fascinating subject for a movie. His ordeal makes for compelling drama. It seems almost unspeakable that he had to endure what he did. What will be the test of our culture in the years to come is that there be no more Rubin Carters. But while men like Leonard Peltier rot in prison, we are not quite there yet. One day soon ... we can only hope.


This is a movie you'll want to see over and over again. Buy the video.
DVD at Amazon.
VHS at Amazon.

See cast, credit and other details about "The Hurricane" at Internet Movie Data Base.