Monday, 19 January 2009

The Hurricane

Lowdown: A recent and authentic story of racism in the USA.
Given the frequency one is hearing complaints about racism, one can almost justifiably develop a thick skin and wonder just how much of it really is racism and how much is to do with certain people having a chip on their shoulder. To take the case of black people in the USA in particular, as someone who is not that exposed to American social trends I could only speculate on just how important the election of President Obama was. However, after watching The Hurricane, the real life tale of black injustice as recent as the late eighties, one is made aware of just how revolutionary Obama’s election is.
To me, personally, this was the second time I got to watch The Hurricane. At almost two and a half hours of length and with its slow pace, this is not a film one would revisit frequently. However, the Bob Dylan song did make the idea of re-acquaintance rather compelling.
The Hurricane (released in 1999) tells the life story of Rubin Carter (Denzel Washington), a boxer by trade and a black guy by race. Life has been hard on Rubin, and through his circumstances of poverty he spent most of his life up until he became a professional boxer behind bars. His boxing powers, derived through the release of his accumulated hate, should have given him the world title if it wasn’t for racism affecting the judge’s decision. Soon enough, though, he encounters racism in a much more lethal a dose when a murder case is pinned on him and he is sentenced to three life sentences in jail.
The Hurricane, Carter’s stage name, maintains his sanity by writing an autobiography. Yet all of his struggles and all the help he gets from people who realize he is innocent and actively protest, Dylan included, are to no avail.
Years later, Carter’s book touches a young black teenager of a background not too dissimilar to Carter’s. However, that kid is lucky enough to be engaged by three [white] Canadians who were touched by him took it upon themselves to get him to college. All four are moved by Carter’s story, and years after his jailing they move to the USA and start their own private investigation to acquire new evidence that will prove Carter’s innocence.
Three main things stand for making The Hurricane a good film despite its slowness. The first is the story, which proves that the real can outdo fiction when it comes to people making other people miserable for no particular reason. The second is the uplifting manner in which the poor rise from their ashes, so to speak, through the help of a few extra altruistic individuals; they do rise to the occasion when the establishment doesn’t, making me wonder what you and I should be doing in order to get this world to make a move with global warming.
The third is the acting. Washington does his usual excellent act, but he enjoys some good support. The Canadian trio does a fine job, led by Deborah Kara Unger whom I will always remember from David Cronenberg’s Crash (for reasons that should be very clear to those that saw this 1996 film). Then there’s Clancy Brown, whom I will always remember as the evil prison guard from The Shawshank Redemption, doing the exact opposite of that former role of his. The combination of good characters does a good job at showing there is still hope, even if it comes late.
Best scene: The best acting job in the Hurricane is done by Rod Steiger playing the judge on the film’s final trial. And what a presence does he bring with him to create the film’s most uplifting moment!
Overall: I’ll be generous and give The Hurricane 3.5 out of 5 stars for its touching and real story. If only it could have featured more than a few brief second of the Dylan song in its soundtrack it could have received more…

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