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The Hurricane (1999)

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The story of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a boxer wrongly imprisoned for murder, and the people who aided in his fight to prove his innocence.



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 7 wins & 16 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Myron Bedlock
Leon Friedman
Judge Sarokin
Badja Djola ...
Al Waxman ...
U.S. Court Prosecutor


This film tells the story of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, an African-American man who rose above his troubled youth to become a top contender for the middle-weight boxing title. However, his dreams are shattered when he is accused of a triple murder, and is convicted to three natural-life terms. Despite becoming a cause celebre and his dogged efforts to prove his innocence through his autobiography, the years of fruitless efforts have left him discouraged. This changes when an African-American boy and his Canadian mentors read his book and are convinced of his innocence enough to work for his exoneration. However, what Hurricane and his friends learn is that this fight puts them against a racist establishment that profited from this travesty and have no intention of seeing it reversed. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Based on the inspirational true story of a champion. See more »


Biography | Drama | Sport

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:



Release Date:

14 January 2000 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Lazarus and the Hurricane  »

Box Office


$38,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£94,558 (UK) (24 March 2000)


£579,291 (UK) (14 April 2000)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Some of the plot and character points fictionalized or ignored include:
  • Carter was actually convicted of three muggings and served four years in prison prior to his murder trial

  • Carter and Lisa Peters eventually married and later divorced

  • In reality, there was no Det. Della Pesca

  • Carter did not give a speech in the courtroom when his conviction was overturned and Lesra was not in attendance

  • Carter was actually released from prison for 4 years between his two trial convictions

  • Carter was dishonorably discharged from the military after four court-martials (after just 21 months' service)

  • There actually was no evidence found that proved Carter's innocence. The reason his conviction was overturned was because the prosecution mishandled much of the evidence it had that Carter did commit the murders. When all the evidence from the real case is looked at, it seems more than likely that Carter was guilty of the murders, but got off on a technicality during his second trial.

  • The Real Della Pesca, Vincent DeSimone, never met Carter before the Lafayette Grill incident. He also died in 1979, so he never met the Canadian couple, nor he attended the trial 1985.

See more »


The final scene looks like Foley Square - downtown NY with the New York City Hall in the background - not anyplace in New Jersey, where Sarokin would be sitting. See more »


[first lines]
Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, this fine young fighter will be right here in Pittsburg on the boxing cog, this Monday night.
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User Reviews

Denzel Washington is superior, a film with a strongly constructed message. ***1/2 out of ****.
7 February 2000 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

THE HURRICANE (1999) ***1/2

Starring: Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber, John Hannah, Deborah Unger, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Dan Hedaya, Debbi Morgan, Clancy Brown, David Paymer, and Rod Steiger Directed by Norman Jewison. Written by Sam Chaiton. Based on the novel "The 16th Round," by Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. Running Time: 155 minutes. Rated R (for language and some violence).

By Blake French:

(The following review of "The Hurricane" contains a description plot description that may or may not be of a spoiling nature.)

The most amazing property of Norman Jewison's "The Hurricane" is that it would have been equivalently as powerful, equally as touching, and just as thought-provoking if there never lived a man named Rubin "The Hurricane" Carter. The movie is such a relevant, understandable feature, it has abundant emotional impact on the majority of an appreciative audience regardless if they realize it is based on an actual individual or not. This is one of the best movies of the year. In accordance with its many strong areas it succeeds in, the picture should present itself well when Academy Award time comes around.

"The Hurricane" tells the true story of famous African American middleweight boxing champion named Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. The time period is the late 1960's. Rubin spent more of his childhood being incarcerated in one way or another. The past is behind him, however, and Carter has miraculously turned his life around and raised a happy family consisting of a wife and young boy.

A corrupt police force wrongly accuses "The Hurricane" and his friend of murdering several innocent pedestrians when coming home from a party one evening. Det. Vincent Della Pesca, a cruel, racist law enforcer who has been after Rubin since he was a child, demands that Carter and his pal be named the killers. A half dead victim, full of hate towards his shooters, identifies Carter and his acquaintance as the terrorists. After a trail based on stacked lies, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter and his buddy are convicted and sentenced to three life sentences in a state prison.

While serving his term, Rubin puts the prison warden a fight it isn't ready for. Carter refuses to wear clothing that other convicts ware; he does not allow himself to be at the same level as others who have committed horrendous crimes. "I've committed no crime, a crime has been committed against me," states Carter in a powerful confrontation sequence. He makes several attempts for acquittal while serving his time--all are eventually denied. Carter eventually loses hope, orders his wife to divorce him, and becomes a strong, hardened prisoner, focusing only serving his time..

For years, Carter's innocent life is wasted away while concealed behind concrete walls. Rubin "Hurricane" Carter decides to write a book about his life experiences. In the book, Carter explains to his readers about the injustice that was served to him, the police corruption with so much malignity towards his race, his life as a child going up in a racist time, and his practice as a professional boxer. That publication, titled "The 16th Round," becomes a bestseller. However, as time passes, it becomes over looked, and forgotten.

This is where the movie's decisive script introduces several new, important characters. Lesra (Vicellous Reon Shannon), an African American teenager living with his Canadian foster parents, Sam Chaiton (Liev Schreiber), Terry Swinton (John Hannah), and Lisa Peters (Deborah Unger). One day, Lesra randomly picks up a book and it just so happens to be "The 16th Round." After reading it, and being emotionally touched, he begins to plead with his foster parents to help Carter fight for his redemption.

It is unusual and risky for a film to open a new series of events so far into the plot. However, "The Hurricane" contains character development among the year's best. Most of the production is spent explaining Rubin Carter to us in one way or another, which is why, as the story progresses, we care more and more about him. His development is not necessarily in a certain order, which is understandable here. The structure within the characters presents itself in a non-conventional approach. To my surprise, the narrative point of view, although about a specific character, is more omniscient than a first person like you'd expect.

Denzel Washington recently won a well-deserved Golden Globe award for his portrayal of Rubin Carter. He performs his character with a strong emotional foundation and realistic, vivid details. These qualities are what makes the character so empathetic. Also contributing fine performances are Liev Schreiber, John Hannah, Deborah Unger and Vicellous Reon Shannon, all with solid supporting roles.

Many of the scenes in "The Hurricane" come off as a little on the gentle side. Obviously the filmmakers believe in the theory about catching more flies with honey than sugar. Though the film still packs a powerful message, with such material, director Norman Jewison should have taken a more aggressive approach towards the movie's concepts, such as racism, corruption, and injustice. This somewhat mild advance on us displaces the film on a level just short of profound.

The film's theme of action propels the screenplay along a lengthy road of focused dramatic tension. Also furnishing the picture's visual narrative style, "The Hurricane" embodies superlative dialogue that is on the level of merit equal to a lesser "Forrest Gump." The actions and dialogue support each other here, constructing a strongly structured production.

"The Hurricane" is more about racism than injustice, more thematic in nature than subjective. It proves a solid moral about what society is like. A point that is powerful and touching because of its strong development...but also saddening because it's true.

Brought to you by Universal Pictures.

14 of 31 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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How many falsehoods in this film? kag2-1
Cater is guilty. lazur-2
Did The Police ever catch the real killer? mjh27
innocent or guilty? Sammmy02
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Det. Della Pesca jaenb
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