Sunday, January 14, 2007

Movie Review: The Hurricane 4 Stars

“This is the story of the Hurricane…”

Director Norman Jewison is one of those rare filmmakers who has the ability to play in almost any genre and do it well. Even when Jewison fails, his failures are great. From comedy (Moonstruck) to science fiction (Rollerball) to musicals (Fiddler on the Roof), Jewison has proven his mettle time and again. Surprisingly, the diminutive Jewish Canadian’s best films often mine the rich dramatic ore of the African-American experience: In the Heat of the Night, A Soldier’s Story, and, now, The Hurricane.

The Hurricane is a powerful, moving biopic chronicling the shameful travesty of justice committed against middleweight boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in the late 1960’s. Framed for a triple murder by racist New Jersey cop Della Pesca (Dan Hedaya), Rubin (Denzel Washington) is railroaded by the justice system. An all-white jury convicted Rubin to three consecutive life terms and the appellate court’s all-white jury upheld the conviction. Despite impassioned appeals by Ellen Burstyn, Muhammad Ali, Bob Dylan and others, as well as publication of his book, The Sixteenth Round, Rubin remained in prison.

Lesra (Vicellous Reon Shannon), an African-American boy living in a unique home-schooling commune in Canada, reads Rubin’s book. He begins corresponding with Rubin, stoking the flames of Rubin’s passion to fight injustice once again. Lesra enlists his guardians, Terry (John Hannah), Sam (Liev Schreiber) and Lisa (Deborah Unger) to launch a campaign to seek out new evidence. It is evidence that, eventually, gets Rubin released.

Denzel Washington gives the performance of his career--a career marked by performances-of-his-career. Every nuance of Washington’s characterization is mesmerizing. He fills each frame with a rich, complex and emotionally-charged portrayal. Washington is supported by an equally impressive cast, veteran Dan Hedaya and relative newcomer Shannon standing out.

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