The Hurricane (1999) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I had a classics professor who once told me that the modern world has no more ability than the Ancient Greeks to distinguish biography from hagiography. In other words, when we tell a great man's life story, we tend to elevate him to sainthood rather than show the complexity of his personality. 
This is true because of several factors.

(1) We like to have saints and heroes. We want to believe they exist.

(2) Biopics and documentaries are made with different motivations and strategies. We make documentaries to present factual truth, or at least to present that portion of the facts that best supports a position. Biographies are made to get to a deeper truth inside the facts. Sometimes biopics even sweep away the facts to get to the truth - or at least to the filmmaker's perception of the truth. "Gandhi" would probably be the most significant whitewash of this type, but there are many other examples as well. 


women: none

men: a naked backside from Denzel Washington

I don't know what the boxer Rubin Carter was like, or anything about the merits of his case. I don't know about the three Canadians who helped him find new evidence, or the youngster who originally brought Carter and the Canucks together. I haven't read their book ("Lazarus and the Hurricane"). So, instead of quibbling about the facts, I'm perfectly willing to accept their assertions that Carter was completely innocent, and was railroaded by racism and corruption. That certainly would be no surprise in a 1960's New Jersey courtroom, would it? If the Atlantic City casinos accept betting on New Jersey verdicts, you can bet the smart money is usually on "corrupt".

OK, I'll buy his innocence.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • Full-length director commentary

  • spotlight-on-location featurette

  • deleted scenes with commentary

But I'm less willing to accept that Carter was wiser than Aristotle, more learned than Erasmus, more self-aware than Buddha, more articulate than Churchill, and more patient than Job. I suspect he was a regular guy who did a lot of seedy things and made a lot of powerful enemies. I suppose his real life consisted of many words and deeds that would not so easily fit into the life of Francis of Assisi.

But the movie made him seem spiritually pure. Nothing in life is that simple.

This movie played my heartstrings several times. It's powerful. I recommend it as a stirring film, and Denzel does a great job as always. But I also have the feeling it's manipulative, simplistically one-dimensional, and probably a lot less honest than it should be. It is from the "Gandhi" school of hagiography, and not from the "Nixon" school of warts-and-all biography. Of course, I don't know. Maybe Hurricane Carter was precisely as he was portrayed here. And maybe the Royal Shakespeare Company will hire Randolph Mantooth to play King Lear.

Bottom line: forget about whether it is true or not, and just enjoy the sweep of the story. 

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4, Maltin 2.5/4.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.5 
  • With their dollars ... it did $50 million domestic gross, budget: $38 million.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B-. 

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