Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Hurricane

In 1966 professional boxer Ruben ‘Hurricane’ Carter was arrested for triple homicide and subsequently found guilty and sentenced to three life sentences for the crime. Despite always maintaining his innocence a second trial also came to the same guilty conclusion. Biopic The Hurricane tells the story of Carter’s fight to clear his name with the help of some unlikely accomplices in the form of three Canadians and the teenager from Brooklyn who they’d taken in. Denzel Washington stars as Hurricane Carter in one of the performances of his career in a film which portrays the hatred, racism and injustice that the human race is unfortunately capable of dishing out to one of its own.

The film uses a non linear timeline to flash back and forward from Carter’s early years, through his boxing career, incarceration and the eventual meeting between himself and Lesra Martin (Vicellous Reon Shannon), Lisa Peters (Deborah Kara Unger), Sam Chaiton (Liev Schreiber) and Terry Swinton (John Hannah) who all fought tirelessly to prove his innocence. The bulk of the film concentrates on the period from Carter’s arrest in 1966 to the mid 1980s though. Although it is far from a perfect film and inaccuracies have been levelled towards it, the incredible story and Washington’s performance make this a film which I’d recommend to anyone.

Though primarily a story about Huricane Carter’s alleged crime and subsequent imprisonment this is in fact a dual story. The second story concerns Lesra Martin, a poor, young black boy who was taken to Canada for an education and chance in life. Lesra picks up a book that Carter wrote while in prison for 25c in a Toronto book store and it changed his life immensely. The imprisoned prize fighter and teenager spark up a pen pal style relationship which gives both of them hope. One area of the story which felt totally forgotten though was that of John Artis, the man who with Carter was imprisoned for life for the murders. He had spent just as much time in jail and he too was wrongly convicted but was only mentioned once after the initial trial. Other than that I thought that the parallel stories of Carter and Martin worked very well. What I still can’t get my head round though is how a story like this could come to fruition in the first place. I understand that America has a shameful racial history but as facts become apparent as the plot develops the tenuous evidence, cover-ups and racism just become worse and worse. It’s shocking and if not based on real events you’d think was preposterous.  

As I mentioned in my opening, along with the story the second great thing about the film is Denzel Washington’s performance. I haven’t seen close all of his films but this is the best I’ve seen him. The passion and intensity he throws into the role are evident and it’s no wonder he was Oscar nominated and secured a Golden Globe along side many other awards. Washington portrays Carter as an angry and bitter man who still has great focus and room for understanding if not forgiveness. His ageing is also convincing. One area of the character I didn’t quite understand was his sudden change of heart with regards to befriending the Canadians. The same is true from their initial assessment of Carter to suddenly wanting to help him. It was an area of the plot that was under explained in my view. The rest of the cast are generally good too with young Vicellous Reon Shannon also standing out in the second lead. The three ‘Canadians’ Schreiber, Unger and Hannah were all ok but Hannah’s accent was dreadful.

The soundtrack is also something that stood out for me. It is an eclectic mix of Jazz, funk, soul, swing and folk and features artists such as Etta James, Ruth Brown, Ray Charles, Gil-Scott Heron, Black Star and Bob Dylan’s ‘Hurricane’ which Dylan wrote about Carter and was released in 1975. The songs work brilliantly within the film but also make an excellent OST on their own. Norman Jewison’s direction is very good. He gets excellent performances from his central actors and films the boxing sequences in a similar style to Scorsese’s Raging Bull but doesn’t get quite as close to the action.

Overall The Hurricane is not a film without faults but for a longish 140 minutes it had my attention for each 140 minute. Helped a lot by an incredible true story and fantastic central performances it is a film which I’d urge everyone to watch.         


  1. Nice write up buddy.

    Loved this movie, and as much as I want to believe he is innocent, there is always a doubt about them releasing a murderer back into society....... Denzel is at his best for me here, tied with Training Day perhaps as his best performance.

    1. I was coming down on the side of innocent but the movie certainly sways you towards that way. It's a shame that Washington's recent films haven't showcased his acting abilities.