We gave it a B-
Again, here comes the story of the Hurricane, the tale of the prizefighter Rubin Carter’s unjust imprisonment and eventual exoneration. In talking about The Hurricane, it has been commonplace to deride the filmmakers’ disrespect for facts, intellectually chic to suggest that star Denzel Washington risks boxing himself into Sidney Poitier’s Noble Negro typecasting corner, and perfectly obvious to point out that the movie itself is an insultingly simplistic ball of corn. Regardless of his courage, irrespective of his suffering, Carter is neither Malcolm X nor Steve Biko, and as a character, he cannot bear the weight of Washington’s fierce, Oscar-nominated portrayal or Norman Jewison’s idolatrous direction.
This curious martyrology is the result of the Hollywood behind The Hurricane at once straining to address America’s racial sins and struggling to deliver the feel-good goods. Sketchily, the movie connects Carter’s emancipation, the ascent of a subliterate ghetto kid who befriended him, and the civil rights movement, nearly trivializing all its themes in a quest to be uplifting. On the contrary, it’s a depressing trait of our Oprah-ized culture that real pain loses its meaning when victims are recast as heroes. B-