He and his costar say their inspirational movie deserves to be seen by teens

Denzel Washington
Credit: Courtesy Universal Pictures

“The Hurricane,” which follows the true story of a professional boxer who struggles for two decades to clear himself of trumped-up murder charges, probably seems like just the kind of inspirational, life-affirming movie that’s perfect for youngsters this holiday season. Except for the R rating. “It concerns me in that the R is not allowing kids to see it,” says Denzel Washington, who plays Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. “We probably got the rating for language, but is that problematic? Teenagers are getting shot today in school. What’s problematic about this movie?”

Costar Deborah Unger, who plays a Canadian activist fighting to free Carter from prison, has her own R-rated response. “What the f–k are they thinking?” she says. “That’s bulls–t. This makes me suspicious whoever rated it R is a racist a–hole. There’s no sex, there are three gunshots. There’s worse stuff on the new ‘Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.'”

Producer and screenwriter Armyan Bernstein agrees that the ratings board dropped the ball with “The Hurricane,” saying its rigid rules are out of synch with modern standards of morality. “The ratings board is an odd group,” he explains. “You can say one f–k, and the second one is automatically an R. You can kill thousands of people and be PG or PG-13, but if you show blood, that’s automatically an R. You fight them, and you’ll lose.” Bernstein, who says that a brief scene of violence pushed ”Hurricane” into R territory, concedes the film could have been trimmed, but not without losing a certain impact. “You can appeal and cut frames, but we needed to show people getting shot in this bar.”

What matters most, concludes Unger, is that ”Hurricane” offers folks of all ages the uplifting message that humanity and hope can transcend even the direst circumstances: “Who Rubin is should be both humbling and inspiring to all the people who bitch and complain about things that don’t even come close what he’s had to overcome.” Much more than a stodgy ratings board, that’s for sure.

The Hurricane

  • Movie
  • R
  • 146 minutes
  • Norman Jewison