Review by Gary W. Tooze
Audio: English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, DUB: French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Subtitles: English (SDH), French, none
Extras: Commentary by Norman Jewison, Spotlight on Location: The Making of The Hurricane, Deleted Scenes with introduction by Jewison
Released: August 28th, 2007
"Hate put me in prison. Love's gonna bust me out."
Those words, spoken by Rubin "Hurricane" Carter (Denzel
Washington), form the thematic foundation of Norman
Jewsion's latest film, The Hurricane. Alternatively
tragic and triumphant, it is an exhilarating trip
through the life and times of the title character, a
championship boxer from Paterson, New Jersey, who spent
19 years behind bars for murders he did not commit. The
Hurricane not only details the crime and the miscarriage
of justice that followed, but shows how Carter survived
the long, lonely years in prison, and how the devotion
of a small group of Canadians led to his redemption.
It's difficult to state exactly where and when the movie begins, since, especially during its first half, it jumps around freely and frequently in time. There are numerous flashbacks, but the editing is clean and sharp, which keeps the potential for confusion to a minimum. It's usually easy to determine within a couple of seconds exactly what portion of Carter's life into which the current scene offers a window.
There are two primary time periods. The first begins in 1963, when The Hurricane defeats Emile Griffith for the World Welter Weight title, and continues through 1966, when he is arrested and tried for murder, then into the 1970s, when he is incarcerated at Trenton State Prison on a life sentence. The second time period occurs during the 1980s, when Lesra Martin (Vicellous Shannon), a Brooklyn teenager living in Canada, buys a copy of Carter's autobiography, The 16th Round, and develops a passion to meet Carter. Encouraged by the three older people he is living with - Sam (Liev Schreiber), Terry (John Hannah), and Lisa (Deborah Unger) - he opens a correspondence with Carter, then travels to New Jersey to visit him. Following the face-to-face meeting, Lesra becomes determined to free Carter, and enlists the aid of Sam, Terry, and Lisa in his struggle.
Many people became aware of Carter's plight as a result of Bob Dylan's mid-70s ballad, "The Hurricane" (which is featured on two separate occasions during the course of the film). Over the years, a number of celebrities have leant their support to Carter's cause, but none of the marches or protests had any effect. What made the difference was the commitment of the group from Toronto, who gave up their jobs, moved to New Jersey, and literally risked their lives to find the evidence to prove Carter's innocence and to bring to light the corruption of the Paterson police lieutenant (Dan Hedaya) who hunted The Hurricane like a dog. Their efforts turn The Hurricane into a story of victory rather than defeat.
Universal HD releases seem, for the most part, far ahead of their SD counterparts if not really reaching the stellar heights that the new format can escalate (as shown occasionally by Warner or even Paramount). I would say The Hurricane is another example - the image is quite competent - hinting at brilliancy in many scenes and certainly superior to the SD edition released in 2000. It is really without flaw - supplanting any other edition of the film currently available. There is hardly any digital noise - it is bright, colors look great and detail is marvelous.
* HD image derived from a digital camera - depending on the system the actual DVD image will probably look far superior.
Again - sounded quite competent if fairly unremarkable. The 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus has some decent buoyancy but it is never really utilized in the film's score or audio track. There is an optional French Dolby Digital Plus DUB and English or French subtitles, in a white font, if required.
The supplements mirror the 2000 SD release - but are still extensive and appreciated. There is a fairly sedate commentary track with director Norman Jewison who shows some occasional enthusiasm over the story and gives detail on the background and a bit of production. This guy knows film too folks (and is of Canadian origin!) - his list of directorial achievements is incredibly extensive and he seems to consistently make better-than-average movies - so he knows what he is talking about. "Spotlight on Location," is a kind of 'Making of...' featurette which includes interviews with Jewison, the cast, and the real Hurricane Carter as well as Lesra Martin. There are also about 20 minutes worth of fairly interesting deleted scenes. A relevant batch - nice to have to go along with the informative film.
If you have not seen the film yet - then this is an easy purchase. If you own the SD - I don't know what level of interest in the film would vault you to desire this HD version. It is a great story and a solid DVD package - it's a movie that I have revisited three times now and certainly no shame in having it in your collection.