With the proliferation of boxing-related movies (including insidious ones like Diamonds) coming out these days, one has to pick and choose which one to attend or one could miss a treasure while getting burned out on the subject matter. So see this one, and stop. I chose this (after initial vague disinterest) due to the sheer charismatic force of Denzel Washington. I hesitate to say this, because it could be misinterpreted as a racist statement, but I am speaking pure Hollywoodese here: Denzel is the black Harrison Ford. He almost always chooses projects worth watching, and he is always the most watchable part of those movies he’s in that might otherwise not be worth watching (Bone Collector, anyone?). He’s what I could call a sure bet. And you can wager on this one. Sidney Poitier, look out.
I am always embarrassed to admit this – it really scrapes at my credibility – but I was blissfully unaware of the existence and plight of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter until watching this movie. I understand why these random Canadians stepped in to help with his case, I understand why the theatre was packed the day I saw the film, and I understand that Washington better get a nomination. Carter describes himself at one point in the movie as a warrior scholar, and who better to play a warrior scholar than Indiana Jones, I mean, Denzel Washington? He has smarts and heart and gravity and solidity and charisma and honor and a rebellious streak – even knowing nothing of the Hurricane, I can see this perfect casting a mile off. Oh and have you seen the photos? He’s quite the ringer too, a supa-buff one! And it is hard to see him fall, hard to see the heroic insanity of his pain and mistrust. It’s…mmm!
I was moved not to tears so much as just feeling my heart thump in my chest – I’m alive! My third movie of the day and I was leaning forward, eyes wide, tension and suspense running through me. It’s a true story, who knows how it will turn out! Perhaps that is the appeal of the true story these days in Hollywood – we don’t know it will end up with the hero and heroine riding off into the sunset by hook or by crook, because it has to go the way it really happened! If it ends in glory, well, triumph of good over evil *does* happen, hooray! If it ends in tragedy, it’s not a gyp because that is what happened and it’s a sensitive biopic instead. I didn’t know how it would end, so I was at the edge of my seat, while unlikely possible hero David Paymer presented the case. And cuddly Dan Hedaya as the slick and wicked bad guy? But it’s great! Nice casting, Avy Kaufman. If you don’t believe how much impact a casting director can have on a movie, go to the IMDB and look up ol’ Avy and see what I am talking about. Wow!
I jotted down that the film was beautifully shot, but not in the way you would think of beauty – I thought privately of the same beauty present in Shawshank Redemption, finding warmth and humanity in cold prison walls – and then the IMDB told me my personal hero, Roger Deakins (lately of Shawshank, Fargo…) was the cinematographer. Am I good, or what? But it is beautiful to look at, and with Denzel being Denzel, well, good lord. It made me want to see Glory again, it did! (Not for Deakins but Washington) But praise for the film would not be complete without the Yin to Carter’s Yang, Lesra (played by Vicellous Reon Shannon. His artless hero worship of Carter blending with his first real steps into realizing himself is…mmm! Only Debbi Morgan as his wife Mae Thelma made me cry, however. Her small part let us feel what we couldn’t feel “out loud.”
MPAA Rating R for language and some violence.
Release date 1/22/1999
Time in minutes 145
Director Norman Jewison
Studio Universal Pictures