Hurricane Streets

on February 13, 1998 by Lael Loewenstein
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   "Hurricane" swept up a slew of awards at Sundance--the audience prize for best film and honors for director Morgan J. Freeman and cinematographer Enrique Chediak. A boy's coming-of-age story on the order of "400 Blows," "Hurricane" features top-notch production values and grittily realistic performances by its cast.
   At the center of the metaphorical hurricane is Marcus (Brendan Sexton III of "Welcome to the Dollhouse"), a 15-year-old who lives with his grandmother in lower Manhattan while his mother serves a prison sentence. Marcus and a renegade band of friends engage in petty theft, pass time at their clubhouse and ride their bicycles like stormtroopers through the city's crowded streets. When Marcus meets Melena, a Latino girl with an overprotective father, he adds love and danger to the adolescent despair swirling throughout his life.
   As Marcus, Sexton has a powerful authenticity that shines through in a complex performance: Marcus acts selfishly, but he is only trying to make sense of an unsympathetic world. That he is an asthmatic heightens the irony; Marcus quite literally fights for his breath. When he bikes through Manhattan to an accelerated tune of "Staying Alive," it lends the song and the image a specific irony. These are the moments where Freeman and Chediak's work is superb--high-speed tracking shots that portray Marcus' life spinning out of control. Though there are various continuity problems that, with a tighter screenplay, should have been resolved, "Hurricane Streets" heralds the arrival of a bold new actor and a director with an understanding of cinema's potential.    Starring Brendan Sexton III, Isidra Vega and Jared Harris. Directed and written and directed by Morgan J. Freeman. Produced by Gill Holland and Galt Niederhoffer. An MGM release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 89 min. Winner, best director; audience award for best film; best cinematography.
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