By Mark Deming | AllMovie
In 1966, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was a top-ranked middleweight boxer whom many fight fans expected to become world champion. When three people were shot to death in a bar in Paterson, New Jersey, Carter and his friend John Artis, driving home from another club in Paterson, were stopped and questioned by police. Although the police asserted that Carter and Artis "were never suspects," a man named Alfred Bello, himself a suspect in the killings, claimed that Carter and Artis were present at the time of the murders. On the basis of Bello's testimony, Carter and Artis were convicted of murder, and Carter was given three consecutive life sentences. Throughout the trial, Carter proclaimed his innocence, saying that his African-American race and work as a civil rights activist were the real reasons for his conviction. In 1974, Bello and Arthur Bradley, who also claimed that Carter was present at the scene of the crimes, recanted their testimony, but Carter and Artis were reconvicted. In the early 1980s, Brooklyn teenager Lesra Martin worked with a trio of Canadian activists to push the State of New Jersey to reinvestigate Carter's case; in 1985, a Federal District Court ruled that the prosecution in Carter's second trial committed "grave constitutional violations" and that his conviction was based on racism rather than facts. Carter was finally freed, and he summed up his story by saying, "Hate got me into this place, love got me out." The Hurricane is based on Carter's incredible true story and stars Denzel Washington as Carter, Vicellous Shannon as Lesra Martin, and John Hannah, Liev Schreiber and Deborah Unger as the Canadian activists. Veteran filmmaker Norman Jewison directed.
- Theatrical Release: December 29, 1999 (limited)
- Video Release: July 11, 2000
- MPAA Rating: R
- Run Time: 146 minutes
- Production Budget: $38,000,000
- Domestic Box Office: $50,699,241
- International Box Office: $23,257,000
- Worldwide Box Office: $73,956,241
- Academy Awards
- Denzel Washington was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role
- Golden Globe Awards
- Denzel Washington won for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama
- Norman Jewison was nominated for Best Director - Motion Picture
- The Hurricane was nominated for Best Motion Picture - Drama
- NAACP Image Awards
- Denzel Washington won for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
- Debbie Morgan was nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture
- The Hurricane was nominated for Outstanding Motion Picture
- Screen Actors Guild Awards
- Denzel Washington was nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Joey Giardello Lawsuit
Former middleweight champion Joey Giardello sued the makers of The Hurricane in February 2000, saying the movie inaccurately portrayed him as being "relentlessly pummeled" by Carter in their 1964 title fight, which Giardello won by unanimous decision.
Giardello filed the federal defamation lawsuit in Philadelphia against Universal Pictures, Beacon Communications and Azoff Films. Carter was not named in the suit.
The lawsuit said the movie describes the fight as having clearly been won by Carter but that the judges were influenced by the racially charged atmosphere. "Virtually every boxing expert then and now will tell you I won the fight," Giardello said.
At a news conference, a videotaped interview was shown in which Carter said he lost the fight fairly — and not because of racism.
The lawsuit sought to have a video clip placed at the end of the movie showing the actual footage of the fight, said Giardello's attorney, Pennsylvania Boxing Commissioner George Bochetto. The lawsuit also sought unspecified monetary damages.
"When you identify a real-life person like Joey Giardello and, in a totally gratuitous manner, strip him of his rights, strip him of his dignity, there's no reason for it and it's inexcusable," Bochetto said.
The lawsuit was settled in September 2000. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but Giardello and Bochetto seem pleased.
"I can say that Joey's legacy as a great world champion has been restored," said Bochetto. "The makers of The Hurricane acknowledge that he's a great fighter and want to make it clear that they never intended to detract from that legacy in making this movie. Their primary purpose was to demonstrate Rubin Carter's struggle for freedom for being wrongfully imprisoned. They have stated as much in writing, and to the mutual satisfaction of both parties."
Giardello said, "For 19 years, I fought the greatest fighters around and I beat Carter fair and square. I just wanted to set the record straight, and I think it has been."
Armyan Bernstein, head of Beacon Communications, wrote in a letter to Giardello: "We had no intention of taking away from your legacy as world middleweight champion, or of besmirching the other boxing accomplishments in which you, your friends and family take pride. Rubin Carter, who worked with us on The Hurricane, told me that you never ducked a fight."
Although terms of the settlement were confidential, there were subtle but significant alterations to the home video release of the movie that soften the implication, intended or not by the filmmakers, that Giardello was the beneficiary of a racially motivated decision.
The standard disclaimer — which states that certain events and characters "have been composited or invented, and a number of incidents fictionalized" — was moved from the closing credits to the beginning of the movie.
The Special Features on the DVD included "Feature Commentary with Director Norman Jewison." During his commentary, Jewison acknowledged that Giardello won the fight. "There's no doubt about it," Jewison said. "Giardello won it."