Many know Rubin "Hurricane" Carter best as the subject of Bob Dylan's thundering '70s ballad (which plays over the credits of The Hurricane). But the harrowing, true-life story of the black prizefighter falsely convicted of murder then vindicated after two decades in jail becomes gripping screen entertainment in the hands of director Norman Jewison (A Solider's Story). Denzel Washington, at his most riveting, drives the film with his impassioned, Oscar-nominated portrayal of the hot-tempered pugilist whose prison-penned autobiography becomes the instrument of his salvation. After reading the book, black teenager Lesra Martin (played by Vicellous Reon Shannon) convinces three Canadian friends (Liev Schreiber, Deborah Unger, and John Hannah) to help him prove Hurricane's innocence -- but they're blocked at every turn by corrupt police and a disinterested judiciary. The Hurricane (cowritten by Carter) telescopes time and eliminates numerous characters and events from the incredible story, culminating with a suspenseful courtroom scene that will have you on the edge of your chair. The result is a heartfelt expression of social conscience that also manages to be dynamic cinema.
The true-life story of an up-and-coming boxer convicted of a bloody crime he probably didn't commit, this drama has more heart than the stereotypical prison drama because it's cleverly told from a unique perspective: that of an inspired youth attempting to get his jailed hero freed. The script by Dan Gordon, who successfully mapped unjustly imprisoned territory once before with Murder in the First (1995), is a top-notch affair that keeps the pace moving -- an admirable bit of work considering the film's rather dour subject matter. Denzel Washington is a mask of pride and barely contained rage in a role that will likely stand as a career highlight for the intense actor and his left-leaning, socially conscious director Norman Jewison. While playing at times like a narrative goulash into which a little bit of every drama genre is thrown (including sports, courtroom, ghetto, and prison), The Hurricane is a moving, powerful story that's stylishly told on every level: visually, emotionally, and intellectually.
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