One of my favourite films of all time is Malcolm X and for years I was convinced that this was a once in a lifetime role for Denzel Washington. Although he had been fantastic in other films since, he never came close to replicating the magic in that 1992 Spike Lee classic.
Well a couple of years later he nearly pulled off the same trick in Christopher Young’s The Hurricane as the former middleweight boxing champion, Rubin Carter. Although the film isn’t of the same standard as Malcolm X, Denzel Washington’s performance is (wait for it) a knock out.
Before watching this film I had no idea who Rubin Carter was in real life. I had no knowledge of his case whatsoever. From the first scene onwards, when Washington’s Carter prepares to face-off with prison guards, you can instantly tell from the intensity in his eyes that he meant business. From the very first scene I totally bought that I wasn’t watching Denzel Washington but I was actually seeing the key moments of Rubin Carter’s life play out in front of my eyes. This ability to sell a character, especially a real life person, is extraordinarily difficult to do – just ask Leonardo DiCaprio. The fact that Denzel has managed to convince as a non-fictional character more than once puts him in the elite category of actors who have ever been on screen.
The most important thing the film managed to do is make me care about Carter and his case. The fact that he spent the best years of his adult life in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit is an injustice of unimaginable proportions. Washington does a very good job of getting across how remarkable Rubin Carter was as a man simply because he survived and, in the end, he was vindicated. I personally don’t know how I would be able to go on if what happened to Carter happened to me.
And this film stands tall because of Washington’s performance. This is not to say that everyone else in the film is bad, they’re not. Denzel is simply that good. With the other supporting actors I spent the whole time trying to figure out where else I had seen them (oh that is that kid from 24 and he’s from Four Weddings and a Funeral… and damn, he’s Sabretooth from that god awful Wolverine film ) – but those distractions never surfaced with Denzel.
If you’re a fan of Denzel then I think you should give this film a shot. I personally think it is a tad too long but it tells a very important story and it is yet again another unbelievable performance from a once in a generation actor.