The only thing more dangerous than the line being crossed is the cop who will cross it.
I'm writing this on March 25th and it's the day after the Academy Awards show. To my surprise, Denzel Washington went home with the Best Actor award for his work in the seething action drama Training Day. The front runner seemed to be Russell Crowe for A Beautiful Mind, but Denzel swooped down and made history (along with Monster's Ball winner Halle Berry for Best Actress) as the first black actor in decades to win the Best Actor prize. After watching Training Day, I think I can safely say that his win was well justified. Also starring Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke (Reality Bites, Gattaca), rapper Snoop Dogg (Bones), and Scott Glenn (Vertical Limit), Training Day hits hard on DVD care of Warner Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
On Los Angeles' mean streets rookie cop Jake Hoyt (Hawke) is about to come face to face with something vastly more dangerous than gang-bangers and crack dealers: Alonzo Harris (Washington). Jake is along for the ride on Alonzo's beat for training purposes (hence the film's title) around one of the worst sections of L.A. Alonzo is a 14-year veteran narcotics detective who somehow went astray; instead of stopping crimes, he now perpetrates them. Alonzo's team consists of dirty cops that are just as corrupt as he is. In fact, a day's work for Alonzo and his fellow officers involves killing a local dealer in cold blood to steal his stash of money, smacking around gang members, and threatening to set his trainee up on a few nifty blackmail charges. In the next 24 hours, Jake learns that the streets may be a much safer place to be than in Alonzo's presence.
This is a tough, grueling look at crooked cops and the mean streets of L.A. Denzel Washington plays one of the most atrocious and morally corrupt characters of his career. Alonzo is a man that seems void of any and all justice—he is what we all fear will come knocking on our door at three in the morning when we call for help. Washington plays this character with a lot of raw charisma and dread, yet there is something about him that draws both Hawke's character and us to him. Is it magnetism? Sensuality? Ah, the complexity of evil…
At first, we the audience don't know what to think. In one scene Alonzo tells Jake to smoke some pot (which we find out later is laced with PCP). Jake refuses, thinking that it may be a test. It's not, and he takes a puff. Alonzo's plan for the smoke up pays off later in the film in a scene which I will not spoil. All I'll say is that it impressed me with how good this screenplay is written. David Ayer (The Fast And The Furious) wraps a good yarn around some explosive action that makes this film rise above its genre.
Hawke and Washington are the core of this film, both standing on opposite sides of the spectrum. On one end there's Hawke's character Jake, a rookie who only wants to please and do a noble job on the streets. On the other end there's Alonzo, a man we suspect may have been like Jake at one point, though now he doesn't just walk the walk, he stomps, kicks, and crushes anything that gets in his path. If Washington and Hawke weren't enough (which they are), the supporting cast is equally as good. Scott Glenn plays an ex-cop who runs some shady business from his home. Glenn's presence is always a welcome one in any movie. Snoop Dogg, an actor who has grown on me, plays a wheelchair bound druggie that seems to know more than he lets on. Dr. Dre (another rapper in films? I'm shocked!) is one of Alonzo's cohorts who seems to have an even worse attitude than Alonzo (makes you wonder if Alonzo is really the nice guy among this group).
By the end, the plot sort of strays off into a place that doesn't really fit with the rest of the movie. There's some formulaic set-up, and after a while Washington's character teeters on the edge of being slightly too evil (monstrous might be a more appropriate word). But even with its faults this is an exhausting and exciting movie—something that seemed rare by Hollywood's 2001 standards.
Training Day is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Warner has done a fabulous job on this movie's transfer. Sporting bright colors and dark black levels without nary an imperfection to be found, this image is nearly reference quality. No edge enhancement, no digital artifacting, no simmer…everything is in order and looks spectacular.
The audio is equally as impressive utilizing a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix in both English and French. Every scene is enveloping with background sounds and directional effects used throughout the entire film. The movie includes a few exciting action sequences (mostly gunfire) and these are performed to maximum effect through this 5.1 mix. Bombastic and shaking, this should give your home theater a nice workout without any distortion in the dialogue, effects, or music. Also included on this disc are subtitles in Spanish, English, and French.
Warner has done a nice job at throwing on a few extra features on this Oscar winning film's DVD. To start with there is an audio commentary by director Antoine Fuqua. Fuqua appears to be a very likable guy who has a lot to say about the ideas behind the story. He seems to really have enjoyed working with Hawke and Washington, and has a wealth of knowledge about the film and its production.
The 15-minute "HBO First Look" featurette is your basic promo EPK promo stuff that features short interviews with director Fuqua, Hawke, and Washington. Lots of clips from the film are included, along with a few behind-the-scenes shots. Next up is a reel of deleted scenes that are in rough form, as well as an alternate ending that didn't seem that much different from the film's original ending. The deleted scenes are interesting to watch, though their exclusion appears to have been necessary.
Finally, there's the music video "#1" by Nelly, a second music video by Pharoahe Monch titled "Got You," a theatrical trailer for Training Day and some DVD-ROM features for your PC.
I liked Training Day much more than anticipated. Warner has done an admirable job on this disc, especially when it comes to the video and audio portions. If you get the chance, it's worth at least a night's rental, if not a purchase. Just make sure there aren't any donut shops around when you hit your local video store.
Uh…I'm in the witness protection program. Me no speak-a any English. Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Audio Commentary by Director Antoine Fuqua
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