Lesley J. Friedsam is Board Certified in Marital and Family Law and is a partner in the firm of Fields and Friedsam, PA, in Tampa, Florida. Prior to becoming an attorney, she was for ten years a journalist, including seven years as a reporter-anchor for WTVT=TV in Tampa.
| The Hurricane
By Lesley J. Friedsam
Rubin "Hurricane" Carter's false imprisonment and later release and exoneration after almost twenty years is the least compelling of the two intertwining stories in The Hurricane, starring Denzel Washington. The other story, that of the mentally tough prizefighter whose will provides release from prison while still physically incarcerated, is a revelation. Carter's ability escape from prison life, to do his time, is a powerful reminder of the human spirit.
The film begins with dazzling black and white period-style footage of black and white boxers and whites-only spectators, which skillfully showcases America's circa-1960s racism. Unfortunately, the story quickly disintegrates into stylistic mediocrity. The all-to-familiar tale of an innocent man imprisoned for the crime of being black could be commanding, but overkill robs the viewer of the visceral impact.
It's not that racism was subtle. Rather, the story loses the rich texture a less predictable presentation would have evoked. Think Schlinder's List where the implied violence was more horrific and powerful than the few deaths seen on-screen.
The Hurricane tells the story of champion welter-weight boxer who served 20 years in prison after being wrongly convicted by an all white jury of a triple murder. Carter's cause was memorialized in a Bob Dylan song and numerous other celebrities rallied to his cause over the years, only to grow tired and fall away. Carter's salvation and release come from an unlikely source: A boy in Toronto, Lesra (Vicellous Shannon) reads his book, The Sixteenth Round, contacts Carter and changes both their lives. Carter's relationship with the young boy is superbly told as both characters test each other and themselves and dare to risk their emotional well-being.
Washington moves and physically fits the part. His performance is first rate and reminiscent of his other stellar turns in Malcolm X, for which he received a best actor Oscar nod, and for Glory, for which he won the supporting actor Academy Award.
There's been some criticism about the liberties Hollywood taken with the "real story". It seems that Carter's early life was not one of completely innocent youth. And while the film depicts Carter being persecuted by a Les Miserables-type lone detective, the true story is much worse because it exposes the conspiracies and rampant bigotry of many in the criminal justice system that led to Carter's two convictions. The film also gives short shrift to the lawyers who worked for years without pay to free Carter and glides over the legal process that led to Carter's release. For an excellent overview of the real story behind the film, read the December 28, 1999 New York Times article which can be found on their web site.
The Hurricane was directed by Oscar nominated Norman Jewison, who also oversaw two other legally themed films: And Justice for All and In The Heat of the Night.
Other Hurricane Carter Link:
Posted June 18, 2000