The Hurricane
*** GM
Starring: Denzel Washington, Vicellous Shannon, Liev Schreiber, Deborah Kara Unger, Dan Hedaya, John Hannah, David Paymer, Rod Steiger, Clancy Brown


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This is going to have to be a review of two different stories.

As a stand-alone work, apart from grim reality, "The Hurricane" is a pretty good film. Denzel Washington is excellent as usual, portraying the wrongly-jailed boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter and his years of struggle against the corrupt New Jersey justice system. The sad story of a young man on the wrong side of the law through no fault of his own throughout his life, his survival through the decades of imprisonment to win his ultimate freedom with the help of a young boy inspired by his story.

I did find some problems with it, though - no explanation of how exactly these Magic White People can afford to devote their lives to freeing Carter, no noting of why all the celebrities who poured out to support him just faded away, Vicellous Shannon occasionally talking like he had marbles in his mouth, no follow-up at all on his wife and kid, no explanation of just when and why all the prisoners began to be allowed to wear whatever clothes they wanted (and where exactly they got those clothes) after such a big deal was made about Rubin refusing to dress like a prisoner, and not nearly enough emphasis on John Artis - the other guy that was apparently wrongly imprisoned for the crime and who had the misfortune of just being in the wrong place at the wrong time to get caught up in the vendetta against Carter. There's a short mention of him near the end, and according to the producers, Artis actually loved the movie... but it still seems that he should have been incorporated into this film a whole lot more.

I didn't start having serious problems with the film until I got home and decided to do a bit of research on the Hurricane case to find out the answers to the above questions I had, and what I found out gave me some serious doubt on the worthiness of Carter as a civil rights martyr. I still have no way of knowing what the actual truth of the matter is, but there's enough uncertainty to make me really uncomfortable with all of this - similar to the way I currently feel about Courtney Love after seeing that documentary "Kurt and Courtney," which implies that there could have been a Love-masterminded conspiracy to kill Kurt Cobain. There's no substanial proof... but there's just enough conjecture to make a person uneasy about her.

This isn't mentioned at all in the film, but Rubin Carter was apparently released from prison for a year after his conviction was overturned in the mid-70s and a new trial began for him, seemingly resulting from the wave of popular support he got from the Bob Dylan song, etc. His second trial, however, found him convicted again, and a new sentence began. I think this was all overlooked in the film due to what seems to be the actual reason the celebrities 'came and went' - Carter was accused of beating the shit out of one of his major female supporters in a hotel room one night. There's still some doubt as to whether this is true - there's the chance that they "got" to her to make her tell this story, or she's fucked in the head in her own right... but it makes you wonder.

Couple o' links I found.

The Other Side Of The Story - is where the anti-Carter squad lives. Seems to be a lot of rhetoric and selective interpretation, but there's enough credible stuff floating around in here to really make me unsure.
Rubin Hurricane Carter - is a pro-Hurricane site that includes a rebuttal to the first site. Check 'em out and let me know what you think. I still haven't made up my mind.

On its own, the film is pretty good, but after learning some stuff about the reality of it, I'm just not sure it needed to be made. There is a somewhat amusing irony about Hollywood getting all self-righteous about a guy and then finding out he could very well be a bastard. Perhaps, though, no matter what the truth is, the compelling story of a wrongful imprisonment reaching out and touching a young man and inspiring him to crusade for justice and make something more of his own life is what should be focused on. Perhaps the potential myth of Rubin Carter and the good he seems to be accomplishing now is more valuable for the future than the grisly acts he may or may not have been guilty of. We can probably never be certain of the truth, but having a legend such as this to inspire future generations could be something we should cling to. The story of the Hurricane seems as though it will prove more enduring than any possible mistakes made by Rubin Carter.

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