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The Hurricane is a American 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 by Sam Chaiton and Terry Swinton and The 16th Round by Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. The film tells the story of boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, whose conviction for a Patersonmarker, New Jerseymarker triple murder was set aside after he had spent almost twenty years in prison.

The film received mainly positive reviews, but has been criticized for many inaccuracies by film critics and others, including the families of the murder victims and their supporters.



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."

Award winning director/producer Norman Jewison considers The Hurricane his best work.

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."

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."

Filming locations

Filming locations include: East Jersey State Prisonmarker, Trenton, New Jerseymarker; Avenel, New Jerseymarker; Paterson, New Jerseymarker; Torontomarker, Ontariomarker, Canadamarker.

Critical reception

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, he added, "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."

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."

Currently, the film has an 85% "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 96 film reviews.


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

The film opened in wide release in the United States 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.


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; Larry Elder; Thomas Clough; Barbara Burns, the daughter of victim Hazel Tanis; George Kimball of The Irish Times; Milan Simonich of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Lona Manning; The New York Times reporter Robert Lipsyte; 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."

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

Various newspaper articles have suggested that the film's inaccuracy may well have cost Denzel Washington the Oscar.


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.


  • 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


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