Hurricane Streets | Teen Ink

Hurricane Streets MAG

November 22, 2009
By KDtheGhostwriter GOLD, Jefferson City, Missouri
KDtheGhostwriter GOLD, Jefferson City, Missouri
18 articles 0 photos 31 comments

Favorite Quote:
"You are not special; And I am no hero."

Too often the lives of young people are influenced, changed, and destroyed by circumstances they've been placed in and people around them. This is the theme of the 1998 drama “Hurricane Streets,” directed and written by Morgan J. Freeman (not the actor).

The movie's protagonist, Marcus (Brendan Sexton III), lives on the Lower East Side of New York City. His father is dead, and his mother is in prison for helping smuggle illegal immigrants into the country – or at least that's what she tells Marcus. He eventually finds out that her story is a lie. The shocking revelation of why she is really in prison sends an already teetering Marcus over the edge, leaving him searching for answers, hope and, ultimately, a way out.

Marcus lives with his grandmother and spends his days with four friends shoplifting and selling the merchandise to elementary school kids. They start small – shoes, CDs, movies – but when the ringleader, Chip, decides to take on bigger heists – grand theft auto and breaking and entering – the rest of the group are forced to go along.

Marcus, however, proves to be different, at least somewhat. He saves the money he makes, and as the crimes become more serious, he drifts away from the rough-and-tumble gang and searches desperately for some consolation for his pain. This is where Melena (Isidra Vega) comes in, whom Marcus meets while selling stolen CDs. They quickly become friends. She is the only voice of reason in Marcus's turbulent existence.

Melena also grew up in an abusive home and shares Marcus's dream of escaping the East Village. Marcus patiently waits for a train ticket to Arizona so that he can start a new life with his uncle, and talks of taking Melena with him. But their dream becomes complicated when Chip falls in with two dangerous drug dealers from Miami.

The movie is appropriately titled, because what it lacks in a solid plot (and it does lack), it makes up for in the raw emotion of its characters. Freeman did a great job casting and directing actors who deliver believable performances. This is especially true with Sexton and Vega, who reveal the subconscious of their characters and paint a picture of how desperate Marcus and Melena really are.

One of the best parts of the flick, to me, is their relationship. It is redeeming, hopeful, almost cute. As silly as it sounds, it gave me a warm feeling. Marcus really needed a companion, and after meeting Melena and falling for her, he finds hope. That's what the movie seems to be: a road to redemption, or at least, a blind run toward it.

One aspect I liked is the realism of the dialogue. It sounds like Freeman let the actors create their own script and speak as they normally would. Whether it was improvised, I don't know, and that's a good thing.

“Hurricane Streets” is a coming-of-age story set against the concrete backdrop of the mean streets of New York. It is about redemption, finding your own way, and gaining either hope or hopelessness from those around you.

Ultimately, it's all about the big picture. The movie's basic plot lacks character development and leaves many sub-plots unanswered, and the ending ­itself is a little implausible and hard to follow. But it's that ­ambiguity that keeps you interested. It's a bit rough around the edges, but is very powerful. And for a debut indie film that won three awards at Sundance Film Festival, including the Audience Award, it's one to remember.

The author's comments:
This is a great coming-of-age movie about how hope exists everywhere. Marcus is a bit of a ne'er do well, but he is a gentle soul and is a perfect model of a frustrated youth trying desperately to find positive things in negative spaces. When you watch this movie, one thing that will surprise you quite a bit is how powerful it is.

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