The Hurricane provides a broad overview of the key events in the life of wrongfully imprisoned boxer, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. This conventional "bio-pic" approach doesn't do justice to Carter's extraordinary life. There's material here for any number of superior movies, if a film-maker was prepared to explore some of these incidents in more depth.Through a series of repetitive, non-linear flashbacks, we learn that Carter (Denzel Washington) became a top fighter after spending his adolescence in a juvenile detention centre. In his early twenties, he was arrested and imprisoned for murder (he had been found in the vicinity of a crime scene). Unfortunately, the credibility of the scenes relating to the criminal investigation is undermined by combining all the officers involved into the villainous Detective Della Pesca (Dan Hedaya, who'd twirl his moustache if he had one). Della Pesca is portrayed as being out to get Carter since he was 11 years old. There's no suspense to these scenes, and the injustice doesn't hurt like it should either, because Della Pesca is such an unrealistic, cartoon nemesis.
I would have preferred the movie to focus more on the friendship between Carter and Lesra Martin (the charming Vicellous Reon Shannon), who started writing to him in prison. Martin is a young, black student living with three white Canadians, who eventually take up the legal case against Carter's wrongful conviction. The development of Martin and Carter's relationship through their letters would have been a great subject for a movie in itself. It would have also had the advantage of allowing the film to speak more through Carter's own words. The extracts of his autobiography, narrated on the soundtrack by Washington, are much more moving than anything in Dan Gordon and Armyan Bernstein's trite screenplay.Director Norman Jewison deserves credit for his early juxtaposition of a black protest song with some of the boxing scenes - it boosts The Hurricane with some sorely needed energy, if momentarily. But Washington is the only real reason to see this mediocre movie; he gives it some dignity.