Saturday night, I watched The Hurricane, a 1999 film starring Denzel Washington. This is the Hollywood version of events surrounding the incarceration of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a talented African-American boxer in the 1960’s who was wrongly imprisoned for a triple-homicide for about 20 years in Rahway State Prison. Directed by a fellow named Norman Jewison, the cast is decent, and I noted Liev Schreiber, Dan Hedaya, John Hannah (from The Mummy movies) and Harris Yulin among the actors in this film of note. Oh, and of course, Vincent Pastore of Sopranos fame.
I think much like many people, I first heard about the plight of “Hurricane” Carter from Bob Dylan’s protest song “Hurricane.” It’s natural to be curious, no? Turns out, there’s a bit of a controversy with the song, as no one truly knows the truth at this stage about really happened at the Lafayette Grill that night in Patterson, NJ. Patterson police have never solved this crime. Also, many facts cited in the song were not accurate.
This film is generally well-received by critics and people who have watched it (83% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes.) Jewison was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Directory. Denzel Washington was nominated for an Academy award, and won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor. Personally? I’ll give credit to Denzel for a fine acting job. However, I didn’t like this film very much. Why is that? Why do I fly in the face of overwhelming love for this film? I find fault for the misrepresented facts of Carter’s life and the case itself, as documented in both his criminal and military records, and police reports and court documentation. I’m a guy who likes his documentaries, and his character dramas. If you are going to make a film about historical events, I want to watch this visual representation of what happened. It’s like watching a documentary, but with better acting and a bigger budget. To watch a movie that has significantly revised events, it’s less about what happened, and more a fictional tale that pretends to be accurate.
I remember back in 2001 when my wife and I went to the theater to watch Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind, the story of mathematician John Nash who suffered from schizophrenia. A well done movie, but criticized for historical inaccuracies. Once I read the whole story about John Nash, I liked Ron Howard’s film a lot less.
Apart from the historical whitewashing of actual events, I didn’t quite connect to this film. It wasn’t the acting per se, but there was a certain 1990’s “this film is a character battling adversity” vibe that was all too blatant for me to enjoy. It felt dated, and not subtle. Sorry, folks. Not my favorite movie.