Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Denzel Washington,
Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Cliff Curtis, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 122 Minutes
Release Date: March 19, 2002
“In this business, you’ve got
to have a little dirt on you for anybody to trust you.”
Denzel Washington is perhaps one of the greatest actors the
cinema will ever have the pleasure of. He has displayed a level of charisma and
realism in his performances than most actors are even capable of. For the
longest time, he has made a name for himself in playing good-hearted
protagonists (Courage Under Fire, Crimson Tide, The Siege) as well as
true-life figures (Malcolm X, The Hurricane, Remember the Titans). Given
this track record, Denzel has made a bold career move to portray a character
that is totally 180 from the aforementioned portrayals. For an actor who is
known to be consistently intense in his performance, no matter what the
characterization, Training Day gives Washington the opportunity to sink
his intense charisma into the role of a memorable movie villain.
In addition to being a fascinating character piece for
Washington, Training Day is by far the most superior and gripping cop
movie to come from Hollywood in a long, long time. The driving force behind the
brilliance of the movie is Washington’s performance, which is very much the
worthy choice in this year’s Oscar race. He plays Alonzo Harris, a veteran
undercover narcotics officer whose tactics in dispensing justice is not exactly
what is taught at the academy. He cruises up and down the rotten neighborhoods
in Los Angeles, in his shiny Monte Carlo, which he dubs “the office”, as
something of a god-like figure. Alonzo has trained many rookies before, and his
latest apprentice is young, idealistic Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke), who is willing
to do anything he can in order to make detective, but being in the clutches of
Alonzo, it won’t be necessarily easy.
Following a brief drug bust, Alonzo forces Jake to smoke
the pot they just confiscated, feeding to his brain that not only should a good
narc know a lot about drugs, but should also in fact have drugs in his system.
At first Jake resists, but after Alonzo whips his gun out right at Jake’s
face, he goes along, feeling he’ll have no other choice. Another rule to
follow in Alonzo’s world of undercover work is to resist drugs from a dealer
is to end up dead. Later, the two stop a pair of homeless thugs from raping a
school girl, but instead of arresting them, Alonzo gives the two a beat with a
inch of their lives, and then leaves them lying on the ground in immense pain.
At this point, it is clear that Alonzo is in favor of “street justice”, as
opposed to locking them up in a cell, something that Jake is in serious
During the remainder of their first day, Alonzo and Jake
engage in a number of questionable scenarios. They chase down a drug peddler,
which is followed by a phony drug raid. The two then meet up at a rendezvous at
a restaurant with a group of top cops, dressed in suits, who handle payoffs and
grafts. Alonzo then takes Jake, along with a crew he has assembled, to knock
down and steal money from one of his informants. When Jake witnesses his
training officer kill a man in cold blood and plotting a phony self-defense
scenario, he sees, as well as us, what Alonzo truly is, which is that of a man
who has spent to much time on the streets, and as a result has delved into a
psyche that has made him no different than the criminals men like him are
supposed to be putting away.
A good number of the reviews I read were positive towards
the movie, but they all seem to think it could’ve ended better. While I was
kind of surprised by how the movie twisted in the end, I seriously think that it
didn’t take away from all of the believability that came before it. Once
Alonzo’s true motivations for his actions are revealed, too many coincidences
seem to arise, but at an entertainment value, it works superbly well. I also
admire the final confrontation between Alonzo and Jake, which occurs in front of
many neighborhood patrons, which is one of Denzel’s big scenes in the film.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua (The Replacement Killers, Bait), Training Day is his strongest piece yet. An entertaining piece of hardcore storytelling, fueled by the hot wire brilliance of Denzel Washington. Ethan Hawke delivers in one of his strongest performances to date. A smart action thriller with a big dose of frightening reality lying underneath, Training Day is truly one of last year’s best films.
In reviewing the look of
this disc, I will go ahead an add a footnote I forgot to include in the initial
review, which is that director Fuqua, along with cinematographer Mauro Fiore
have applied a sharp look to picture that truly captures the realism of its
setting. Having said that, this is one of Warner’s most outstanding looking
discs ever, as well as the first great video transfer I’ve seen all year.
Picture quality of the anamorphic presentation is terrifically sharp, capturing
action in every single frame to complete perfection. No image flaws of any kind
whatsoever. The movie is shot mostly in outdoor settings, with the two
consistently on the streets. All of those scenes render especially well,
rendering neat vibrant colors in addition. A very remarkable release from WB!
A completely top notch
audio job is at hand from WB as well. The 5.1 audio mix is extremely well
performed in terms of capturing surroundings of the setting of the movie. The
movie is frequent with all sorts of music, mostly hip-hop, to a mellow score by
Mark Mancina. The last half hour of the movie provides the standout moments
involving loud exchange of gunfire and distinct background sounds. An all-around
A good number of extras to
glance at, including a running commentary by Antoine Fuqua, an HBO First Look
Documentary, additional scenes including an alternate ending, 2 music videos (#1
by Nelly, and “Got You” by Pharoahe Monch), a trailer, cast and crew
information, and some DVD-Rom content.
Training Day is as superior, hard-edged entertainment as you are going to find. Highlighted by two strong performances by Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke, along with stunning direction by Antoine Fuqua, this is a film that shouldn’t be missed.