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The Hurricane

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Hurricane

Starring: Denzel Washington, John Hannah
Director: Norman Jewison
Rated: R
RunTime: 139 Minutes
Release Date: January 1999
Genres: Drama, Sports

*Also starring: David Paymer, Liev Schreiber, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Rod Steiger, Deborah Unger, Dan Hedaya

Review by John Beachem
2½ stars out of 4

In the past I have stated that strong performances are incapable of saving an otherwise weak film (1998's Hurlyburly being a perfect example of this). Denzel Washington proves me wrong in "The Hurricane", the story of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. While the film itself is languid, overlong, and melodramatic, Washington's performance is outstanding. Washington has, in fact, already received a Golden Globe nomination for his role, and if he doesn't receive an Oscar nomination to go along with this, someone in the academy is going to hang.

Shot in two different time periods, the film tells the story of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter (Denzel Washington). Portions of the film show Rubin's rise to fame and troubles with the authorities. The time frame then shifts to Rubin's days in prison and the efforts of a young man named Lesra (Vicellous Reon Shannon) and his three Canadian teachers/foster parents (John Hannah, Liev Schreiber, Deborah Unger) to free him. While the group searches for clues which will help exonerate Carter, they are threatened and harassed by the racist cop (Dan Hedaya) who pinned the murder on Rubin thirty years prior.

The majority of the film moves along at such a leisurely pace that I noticed half of the audience drifting off. During these scenes, all one can do is wait for Washington to show up and ignite the screen. However, not all of the film is quite so sluggish. The scenes in which the Canadians hunt for clues move along at a nice, brisk pace. The biggest fault perhaps lies in the amount of time spent on Carter's younger days. For nearly half of the very long picture, we watch Carter get cheated out of everything he's earned again and again. During these scenes, we're shown Hedaya's vengeful Lieutenant Della Pesce trying everything he can to have Carter locked up. The problem here is that despite a great job by Hedaya (as always), the character has no personality. He's evil, pure and simple. We're given nothing beyond this. In a movie like "Star Wars" this works fine, but here we really need something more to make us hate this character.

As for the performances here, I've already made clear how incredible Washington is, but the majority of the supporting cast is really quite good as well. I truly believe that Dan Hedaya can't help but act well. Liev Schrieber (Scream 2), Deborah Unger (The Game), and John Hannah (The Mummy) are all adequate at their worst and entertaining at their best. Clancy Brown (Highlander) and Rod Steiger (End of Days) both make fairly brief appearances, but both are talented enough actors that it's a pleasure seeing them at all. The only weak link here is Vicellous Reon Shannon. I'm not entirely sure if this is due to Shannon himself, or the rather weak dialogue written for him. I lean towards the latter because every now and then Shannon seems to break free and display some real talent.

"The Hurricane" is by no means a great movie. It can, however, be an interesting one at times. The film runs 125 minutes, which would normally be a good running time, but fifteen minutes or so of this movie could easily have been chopped. "The Hurricane" is at its best when we see how Carter deals with life in prison, which involves him cutting himself off from anything and anyone he cared about. However, countless melodramatic scenes and a whole lot of preaching keep the film from being anything more than fairly good. I'd recommend waiting for video on this one, but do try and see it.

Copyright 2000 John Beachem

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