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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Based on a True Story

The Hurricane (1999) on IMDb

Plot Overview

“Hurricane” opens with a disclaimer that the film has taken some liberties with the facts. The black boxer isn't the top in his league, he's not as saintly as he appears, the (racially mixed) jury that convicted him isn't tainted (all white), the police aren't all racist, and his innocence is not beyond dispute. He feels he's innocent, though, enough to write a book about it, and to be sure, some innocents do get put behind bars—I've known a few. This is a movie, a yarn that spawns a legend; so be it.

bully w/slingThe boxer's professional name is The Hurricane, and this movie meta­phoric­ally tracks his winding course. As a boy in Pater­son, NJ he leads a pack of hooligans blowing down the street, snatching away merchandise that isn't tied down. They end up at “the falls” where his flying debris hits a reputable man who was trying to make nice to a colored boy, to get a feather in his cap, or what­ever. The hands-on man dangles the hurricane boy above the water threatening to drench him to teach him a lesson, and he gets stabbed for his trouble. The judge sentences the “nigger with a knife” to reform school until the age of twenty-one. There this hurricane gains strength becoming brutal.

At age nineteen he changes course. Escaping his imprisonment he enlists in the army air­borne to become a para­trooper. There he learns a new skill, boxing. He musters out and makes landfall at his home town where he meets his new love Mae Thelma (Debbi Morgan) whom he dances with in the calm eye of the storm rather than forcibly displacing the brother who was seated in the chair next to her. Then he is rearrested to finish out his term. The couple get married and have kids. His wild boxing career takes off. Mal­con­tents break their windows at night.

Martin Luther King Jr.In 1966 there's a scent of revolution in the air. Radicals want to thwart the constitutional guarantee of free association by forcing integration on every­one. Under imminent threat of a hurricane, niceties of the law tend to get ignored, like battening down the hatches without a construction permit. A murder wrap gets hung on the Hurricane for murders committed at Lafayette Grill one night, supposedly in retaliation for their policy of segregation though in fact they were integrated. The police need some­one to blame, and this high profile “menace to society” and his buddy vaguely match the description of the two black men seen drviing away. Looks like the Hurricane is going to wind down in the pen, however long that takes.


Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (Denzel Washington) tells us, “Carter is the slave name that was given to my fore­fathers.” Later in the movie he will discuss the African tribal origins of his prison pal Mobutu (Badja Djola.) Eventually, he divulges the origin of his first name “Rube” from Genesis, the first book of the Bible. That gives us an historical scope all the way back to the beginning. In this 2½ hour movie an inordinate amount of time is devoted to Rube's clothing. The announcer tells us Hurricane is wearing white trunks with a black stripe. In the boy­hood scene he is shown lifting a white shirt from a side­walk display. Eventually the cops give him a “murder jacket” to try on. Once locked away he “will not wear the clothes of a guilty man,” so he compromises to wear white pajamas from the dispensary. In most scenes he includes white in his wardrobe. He's very reluctant to be strip-searched (for visitors)—that qualm was reserved for a deleted scene to save time. There's a focus in the film on clothing or lack of it.

Why don't we take a look at a clothing issue all the way back at the beginning, concerning Noah's sons, (Gen. 9:18-19) “And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth over­spread.” The animals were in pairs, and Noah is going to deal with two of his sons, Shem and Japheth, as a pair. There is no fourth son to pair with Ham the youngest, so Ham gets paired with his youngest son Canaan who will inherit Ham's deal any­way. (Gen. 9:20-23) “And Noah began to be an husband­man, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the naked­ness of his father, and told his two brethren with­out. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went back­ward, and covered the naked­ness of their father; and their faces were back­ward, and they saw not their father's naked­ness.” Noah hit Ham's son Canaan with a specific curse (Gen. 9:24-25) “And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son [Ham] had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” The lines of Noah's other two sons Shem and Japheth would be the masters and Ham's line represented here by Canaan would be the slaves. Writer Bodie Hodge holds forth that: “Generally, from the Middle East in the land of Shinar (modern-day Iraq, where Babel was), Japheth's descendants went north toward Europe and Asia, Ham's went toward Africa, and Shem's remained in the Middle East” (183). The servitude of Ham as passing to his youngest son Canaan also encompassed his eldest son Cush, see Gen. 10:6. Cush is Hebrew for black, whose descendants settled in Africa. Canaan is the youngest son of Ham carrying the curse on the whole family by a figure of speech called a synecdoche whereby a part stands for the whole. (Jasher 73:35) “For the Lord our God gave Ham the son of Noah, and his children and all his seed, as slaves to the children of Shem and to the children of Japheth, and unto their seed after them for slaves, forever.”

This punishment may seem excessive until we look at the one similar incident in the Bible of mocking exposure (of a bald head) concerning the prophet Elisha, (2Kings 2:23-24) “And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.” The kids liked hair; they got a bear. Ham got a better deal than that, servitude rather than destruction. The Canaanites were due for destruction in conflict with Israel, but the Gibeonite branch did a deal with Joshua (Joshua 9:24-27) to have their lives spared in favor of being bond­men, which was more to their liking. A lot of wicked people were wiped out in the Flood, but Ham got the better deal.

There's a problem with lions akin to the problem with bears: (2Kings 17:24-28) “And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof. And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the LORD: there­fore the LORD sent lions among them, which slew some of them. Where­fore they spake to the king of Assyria, saying, The nations which thou hast removed, and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land: there­fore he hath sent lions among them, and, behold, they slay them, because they know not the manner of the God of the land. Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, Carry thither one of the priests whom ye brought from thence; and let them go and dwell there, and let him teach them the manner of the God of the land. Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD.”

Noah's idea seems to be that the lines of his better two sons would teach the line of Ham the manner of the God of the (cleansed) land where as slaves Rube's “fore­fathers worked in the cotton fields of Alabama and Georgia.” In “Hurricane” the Carter boy got it wrong when pilfering clothes at an out­door market. How­ever, when black teenager Lesra Martin (Vicellous Reon Shannon) was allowed by his father to enter the tutelage of do-gooder Canadians Lisa Peters (Deborah Kara Unger,) Sam Chaiton (Liev Schreiber,) and Terry Swinton (John Hannah,) they showed him the more acceptable way of purchasing used goods on the cheap. When “The Hurricane” saw a brother take a seat that he wanted, he wanted to fight him for it. When Lesra was beat to a used book on sale, which he was interested in, he waited for the gentle­man to make his decision about it first. This teaching a black the manner of the God of this land was done out of the goodness of their hearts, and at great expense to them; there needed to be financial incentive, i.e. slavery, for it to be widespread.

This is the widely accepted view of the drunken Noah incident in the Bible Belt. Yankee theologians try to twist it to fit politically correct dogma, but the simple explanation is likely the correct one. Author Harlan Coben writes of “Occam's razor … Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. … In short, the simplest answer is usually the most likely. … [W]hat the Franciscan friar William of Ockham … wanted to emphasize, is that you shouldn't ‘stack’ a theory if a simpler explanation was at the ready” (374, 259.)

Production Values

” (1999) was directed by Norman Jewison. Its screen­play was adapted by Armyan Bern­stein and Dan Gordon from the books Lazarus and the Hurricane by Sam Chaiton and Terry Swinton, and The Sixteenth Round by Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. It was loosely based on the true story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Cast included: Denzel Washing­ton, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Liev Schreiber, Deborah Kara Unger, Dan Hedaya, and John Hannah. Washington delivered one powerful performance as Carter. Unger, Schreiber and Hannah played quiet Canadians in the back­ground. Shannon did okay as a dumb oaf coming along in a white man's world. The acting parts weren't all that challenging.

MPAA rated it R for language and some violence. Bob Dylan was shown in good form playing an ode to The Hurricane. There was a lively swing number in the night club. Despite the director's best effort with his final cut, this mundane picture still clocked in at 2½ hours.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This was a Hollywood dramatization molded to fit an expected sense of out­rage in a cause célèbre to compensate for lack of depth other­wise. Boxing aficio­nados might be disappointed with ring time limited to a few B&W high­lights. I imagine the books might be a better source for serious research. It is what it is.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Better than watching TV. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall movie rating: Three stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

The Book of Jasher. Trans­lated from the Hebrew into English (1840). Photo litho­graphic reprint of exact edition published by J.H. Parry & Co., Salt Lake City: 1887. Muskogee, OK: Artisan Pub., 1988. Print.

Coben, Harlan. Fool Me Once. Copyright © 2016. New York: DUTTON. Print.

Hodge, Bodie. Tower of Babel: The Cultural History of Our Ancestors. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Pub., 2013. Print.