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The Hurricane (1999 film)

The Hurricane
File:The Hurricane poster.JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Norman Jewison
Produced by Norman Jewison
Marc Abraham
Armyan Bernstein
Thomas Bliss
John Ketcham
Screenplay by Armyan Bernstein
Dan Gordon
Based on Lazarus and the Hurricane (Sam Chaiton & Terry Swinton)
The Sixteenth Round (Rubin "Hurricane" Carter)
Starring Denzel Washington
Vicellous Reon Shannon
Deborah Kara Unger
Liev Schreiber
Music by Christopher Young
Cinematography Roger Deakins
Edited by Stephen E. Rivkin
Distributed by
Release dates
  • December 29, 1999 (1999-12-29)
Running time
145 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $50 million
Box office $73,956,241

The Hurricane is a 1999 biographical film directed by Norman Jewison, and starring Denzel Washington. The script was adapted by Armyan Bernstein and Dan Gordon from the books Lazarus and the Hurricane: The Freeing of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter (published in 1991), by Sam Chaiton and Terry Swinton, and The Sixteenth Round: From Number 1 Contender To #45472 (published in 1974), by Rubin "Hurricane" Carter.[1] The film tells the story of a former middleweight boxing champion who was convicted for a triple homicide in a bar in Paterson, New Jersey. The film also depicts his life in prison and how he was freed by the love and compassion of a teenager from Brooklyn named Lesra Martin and his Canadian foster family.[2]

The film received positive reviews, but has been criticized for inaccuracies by some media outlets and participants in Carter's trials.


The film tells the story of middleweight boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, whose conviction for a Paterson, New Jersey triple murder was set aside after he had spent nearly 20 years in prison. Narrating Carter's life, the film concentrates on the period between 1966 and 1985. It describes his fight against the conviction for triple murder and how he copes with nearly twenty years in prison.

In a parallel plot, an underprivileged youth from Brooklyn, Lesra Martin, becomes interested in Carter's life and destiny after reading Carter's autobiography, and convinces his Canadian foster family to commit themselves to his case. The story culminates with Carter's legal team's successful pleas to Judge H. Lee Sarokin of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

In 1966, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was a top-ranked middleweight boxer whom many fans expected to become the world's greatest champion in boxing. When three victims, specifically the club's bartender and a male and a female customer, were shot to death in a bar in Paterson, New Jersey, Carter and his friend John Artis, driving home from another club in Paterson, were stopped and interrogated by the police.

Although the police asserted that Carter and Artis were innocent and thus, "were never suspects," a man named Alfred Bello, a suspect himself in the killings, claimed that Carter and Artis were present at the time of the murders. On the basis of Bello's testimony, Carter and Artis were convicted of murder, claiming that Carter and Artis were the main suspects of the triple homicide in the club, and Carter was given three consecutive life sentences.

Throughout the trial, Carter proclaimed his innocence, proving that his African-American race, his boxing career and status and his work as a civil rights activist were the real reasons for his conviction. Eight years later, Bello and a co-suspect, Arthur Bradley, who also claimed that Carter was present at the scene of the crimes, renounced and recanted their testimony.

As a result, Carter and Artis were convicted once again. In the early 1980s, Brooklyn teenager Lesra Martin worked with a trio of Canadian activists to push the State of New Jersey to reinvestigate and rescrutinize Carter's case.

In 1985, a Federal District Court ruled that the prosecution in Carter's second trial committed "grave constitutional violations" and that his conviction was based on racism rather than facts. Carter was finally freed, and he summed up his story by saying, "Hate got me into this place, love got me out."[3]



Actor Denzel Washington and Rubin Carter worked closely in making the film. Washington said, "He went through pots and pots of coffee and packs of cigarettes. I'd drink a little coffee. It's interesting and challenging when the person is there, alive and in the room."[4]

Award-winning director/producer Norman Jewison considers The Hurricane his best work.[5]

Filming locations include: in the United States: East Jersey State Prison, Trenton, New Jersey; Avenel, New Jersey; Paterson, New Jersey; and in Canada: Toronto, Ontario.


The film premiered on September 17, 1999 at the Toronto Film Festival. It also was featured at the Berlin International Film Festival on February 17, 2000.

The film opened in North American limited release on December 29, 1999. The first week's gross was $384,640 (11 screens) and the total receipts for the run were $50,668,906. In its widest release the film was featured in 2,148 theaters. It closed the week of April 14, 2000. The motion picture was in circulation sixteen weeks.[6]

Roger Ebert, film critic for the Chicago Sun Times, liked the film and the acting, and wrote, "This is one of Denzel Washington's great performances, on a par with his work in Malcolm X....Washington as Hurricane Carter is spare, focused, filled with anger and pride.... This is strong stuff, and I was amazed, after feeling some impatience in the earlier reaches of the film, to find myself so deeply absorbed in its second and third acts, until at the end I was blinking at tears. What affects me emotionally at the movies is never sadness, but goodness."

Regarding the "fictionalized" aspects of the film, Ebert discussed why that is often the case in films: "Several people have told me dubiously that they heard the movie was 'fictionalized'. Well, of course it was. Those who seek the truth about a man from the film of his life might as well seek it from his loving grandmother. Most biopics, like most grandmothers, see the good in a man and demonize his enemies. They pass silently over his imprudent romances. In dramatizing his victories, they simplify them. And they provide the best roles to the most interesting characters. If they didn't, we wouldn't pay to see them." He added, "The Hurricane is not a documentary but a parable, in which two lives are saved by the power of the written word."[7]

Film critic Stephen Holden, writing for The New York Times, had mixed views of the film but did like the acting. He wrote, "In telling the story of Mr. Carter's protracted and ultimately successful fight for freedom and justice, The Hurricane rides to glory on an astonishing performance by Denzel Washington....That is to say, Mr. Washington leans into an otherwise schlocky movie and slams it out of the ballpark. If his Hurricane is an inspiring portrait of nobility, it is because the actor never conceals the demons of fury and despair gnawing beneath his character's forcefully articulate surface."

Holden was forthright about the veracity of the film, writing, "The film is so eager to stir us up that it thinks little of bending the facts for dramatic effect. Among its most egregious distortions is its depiction of Mr. Carter's 1964 middleweight title match with Joey Giardello. The movie (which has fine, naturalistic boxing sequences) inaccurately portrays the fight as lost by Carter solely because of the judges' racism. The taking of such license, of course, adds an extra jolt of drama. But when these and other distortions and exaggerations are added up, it's worth wondering if that self-congratulatory glow the movie leaves us with has been gotten far too easily and at what cost."[8]

Currently, the film has an 83% "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 113 reviews.[9]


The film was criticized for misrepresenting many of the facts of Carter's life and the case itself, as documented in both his criminal and military records, and police reports and court documentation. Such critics include: Herald-News reporter Cal Deal;[10] Larry Elder;[11] Thomas Clough; Barbara Burns, the daughter of victim Hazel Tanis; George Kimball of The Irish Times;[12] Milan Simonich of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Lona Manning;[13] The New York Times reporter Robert Lipsyte;[14] Paul Mulshine of The Newark Star-Ledger; and Jack Newfield of the New York Post, who stated, "I knew Rubin Carter, attended his fights, covered his retrial and I didn't see much reality on the screen."[citation needed]

The New Yorker film critic David Denby called it: "False, evasive and factually very thin – a liberal fairytale."[15]


Former middleweight World Champion Joey Giardello sued the film's producers for libel over the depiction of his fight with Carter as a "racist fix." "This is a joke, [he told the New York Daily News] he never hit me that much in 15 rounds. Virtually every boxing expert then and now will tell you I won the fight." Referee Robert Polis who scored the fight 72–66 in Giardello's favor stated: "They portrayed Joey Giardello as an incompetent fighter. I thought it was ludicrous."[16] Even Carter himself agreed that Giardello was the rightful victor.[17]

Eventually, the case was settled out of court, with the producers paying the retired champion a hefty sum and Jewison's agreement to make a statement on the DVD version that "Giardello no doubt was a great fighter."[18]


The Hurricane Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Various Artists
Released MCA
Recorded 1999
Genre R&B, soul, hip hop, pop rock
Label MCA
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Source Rating
# Title Performer(s) Writer(s) Length
1 "Hurricane" The Roots featuring Black Thought, Common, Mos Def, Dice Raw, Flo Brown and the Jazzyfatnastees Tariq Trotter, Tracey Moore, Mercedes Martinez, Karl Jenkins, Lonnie "Common" Lynn, Dante "Mos Def" Smith, Falana Brown, Scott Starch 5:39
2 "Little Brother" Black Star 4:01
3 "Love Sets You Free" Kelly Price and Aaron Hall 4:06
4 "I Don't Know" The Jazzyfatnastees 3:19
5 "Isolation" Meshell Ndegeocello 4:57
6 "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" Gil-Scott Heron Heron 3:05
7 "One More Mountain (Free Again)" K-Ci & JoJo Diane Warren 3:41
8 "Hurricane" Bob Dylan Dylan, Jacques Levy 8:33
9 "Hard Times (No One Knows Better Than I)" Ray Charles Charles 2:55
10 "In The Basement part 1" Etta James Billy Davis, Raynard Miner, Carl Smith 2:22
11 "Still I Rise" Melky Sedeck 4:15
12 "I Don't Know" Ruth Brown Brook Benton, Bobby Stevenson 2:53
13 "So Amazing" Clark Anderson Anderson, Summer Anderson 4:32
14 "The Suite" Christopher Young Young 7:18

A soundtrack inspired by the film was released on January 11, 2000 on the MCA label. The CD contains fourteen tracks including "Hurricane", by Bob Dylan, "Hard Times No One Knows", by Ray Charles, "In the Basement" by Etta James, "Isolation", by Meshell Ndegeocello, "Still I Rise", by Melky Sedeck, and others.

A CD of the original motion picture instrumental score was released on February 15, 2000 on the MCA label. The CD contains fifteen tracks and was composed by Christopher Young. It also includes the song "So Amazing", by Boyz II Men.

Awards and nominations


  • Berlin International Film Festival: Prize of the Guild of German rt House Cinemas, Norman Jewison; Silver Berlin Bear, Best Actor, Denzel Washington' 2000.
  • Black Reel Awards: Black Reel; Theatrical, Best Actor; Denzel Washington; 2000.
  • Golden Globes: Golden Globe; Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama; Denzel Washington; 2000.
  • Image Awards: Image Award; Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture, Denzel Washington; 2000.


  • Academy Awards: Oscar; Best Actor in a Leading Role; Denzel Washington; 2000.
  • Berlin International Film Festival: Golden Berlin Bear, Norman Jewison; 2000.
  • Blockbuster Entertainment Awards: Blockbuster Entertainment Award, Favorite Actor, Drama, Denzel Washington; 2000.
  • Chicago Film Critics Association Awards: CFCA Award; Best Actor; Denzel Washington; 2000.
  • Golden Globes: Golden Globe; Best Director, Motion Picture, Norman Jewison; Best Motion Picture – Drama; 2000.
  • Image Awards: Image Award; Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Debbi Morgan, Outstanding Motion Picture; 2000.
  • Political Film Society: PFS Award; Democracy, Exposé, Human Rights; 2001


  1. ^ The Hurricane at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ Deming, Mark. "The Hurricane". Retrieved 2012-10-27. 
  3. ^ Deming, Mark. "The Hurricane". Retrieved 2012-10-27. 
  4. ^ Jensen, Jorn Rossing. The Berlin International Film Festival, February 17, 2000.
  5. ^ Westbrook, Caroline. "We talk to movie legend Norman Jewison,"
  6. ^ The Numbers box office data. Last accessed: December 14, 2007.
  7. ^ "Ebert, Roger". The Hurricane. 2000-01-07. Retrieved 2007-11-20. 
  8. ^ Holden, Stephen. "Fighting The Demons Within", The New York Times, 29 December 1999. Last accessed: November 20, 2007.
  9. ^ The Hurricane at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: August 5, 2012.
  10. ^ Deal, Cal. "The Hurricane" Misleads a Trusting Public.
  11. ^ ""Hurricane" warning". Jewish World Review article by Larry Elder. February 4, 2000. Retrieved 2006-10-23. 
  12. ^ Kimball, George. Truth is swept aside by Hurricane.
  13. ^ "TopTen Myths about..... Rubin Hurricane Carter and the Lafayette Grill Murders". The Lafayette Library, Lona Manning's collection of articles and legal documents about the Lafayette Grill murders. Retrieved 2006-10-23. 
  14. ^, "Once Again, Giardello Is in the Eye of the Storm"
  15. ^ "Patriot games". The Sunday Herald. February 13, 2000. 
  16. ^ "Boxer sues Hurricane's makers". BBC News. February 19, 2000. Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Video". CNN. February 28, 2000. 
  18. ^ Stephen Brunt. The Italian Stallions: Heroes Of Boxing's Glory Days Sport Classic Books. 2003 p213 ISBN 1-894963-03-2
  19. ^ [[[:Template:Allmusic]] link]

External links