Hurricane: Rubin Carter’s Metamorphosis


Last night, wishing to avoid TV reruns for an hour or so, I flipped through the various free movie channels (“free” in that I’ve paid for HBO, Starz, etc with my cable TV subscription, but don’t have to pay again to watch such movies). In doing so I came across an older movie, circa 1999, Hurricane, about the life of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. I thought to post on it because the problem of police/black citizen relations isn’t a new one, and because the movie avoids many of the pitfalls of storylines involving racism in bio-pics.

Carter was a prizefighter from New Jersey, and gaining in prominence when he was falsely arrested and convicted of a triple homicide. He maintained his innocence, gained the attention of cultural luminaries such as Norman Mailer and Bob Dylan, but had to serve twenty years in prison before his conviction was overturned on new evidence.

Hurricane isn’t really a bio-pic, in my view, as much as it’s the story of Carter’s metamorphosis from a difficult black childhood to angry prizefighter to an insightful older man. Denzel Washington plays Carter throughout, and to my mind his performance is impeccable, nuanced, and powerful. Such movies always run the risk of becoming didactic; Hurricane, however, accomplishes the purposes of didacticism, as good literature often does, through a thorough examination of the story’s character, allowing us into Carter’s increasingly loving nature as he found ways at different stages of his life to take control of and responsibility for that life.

My rating: 19 of 20 stars

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