Reviewed March 28th, 2002 by David Nusair
As of late, action movies have been becoming more and more ridiculous. When something like The Mummy Returns - a movie that doesn't pretend to be familiar with the phrase “character development” - is increasingly the sort of action movie produced, it's truly refreshing to watch an intelligent and riveting action movie that doesn't rely on a lot of special effects to tell a genuinely interesting story.
In Training Day, Ethan Hawke stars as Jake Hoyt, a rookie cop assigned to an undercover beat. His partner is a 13-year veteran of the force named Alonzo (played by Denzel Washington) - a man that knows all the rules of the street and has no qualms about doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Through one particularly arduous and occasionally quite deadly day, Hoyt learns about what it takes to operate amongst thieves, killers and just all-around bad dudes.
As directed by an unusually restrained Antoine Fuqua (his last two movies - Bait and The Replacement Killers - eschewed substance in favor of glossy style), Training Day kicks off with a bang and never looks back. The relentless pace of the film is something lots of mainstream Hollywood films strive for but never quite achieve. The movie achieves this by throwing two great actors into a thoroughly volatile situation. Armed with a scathingly well-written screenplay by David Ayer, all Fuqua really had to do was point and shoot.
But it's the performances that will have you talking long after the final credits have rolled. Washington - an actor who is apparently incapable of giving a bad performance - is at the top of his game here (check out his recent Oscar win for proof). This is a character that could have been played as all-out evil, but in the hands of a skilled actor like Washington, there are many more layers to him than just pure villainy. Alonzo is someone who knows that certain ideals and morals have to be put aside when working this sort of a beat, and he is - outwardly - a corrupt cop. But as played by Washington, Alonzo is also someone who understands that in order to survive the streets, certain rules and regulations must be abandoned. Hawke, equally good, has the more thankless role (he's got to play the straight man to Washington's often ultra-menacing character) but he pulls it off. Known primarily for smaller films (his occasional ventures outside of the independent film world - most notably the vastly underrated Gattaca - have been coolly met at the box office), Training Day will likely elevate Hawke to “hot young hunk” status; let's just hope he doesn't blow it, Freddie Prinze Jr.-style.
If you're looking for a gritty and urban action movie, look no further. Training Day has got it all.
Audio: This DD 5.1 soundtrack is, in a word, amazing. Right from the get-go, it’s easy to see why this soundtrack could be considered reference quality. Check out one of the few shootout sequences for proof. But, and this is equally important, the track never falters when it comes time for quieter, dialogue-based sequences.
Video: And as good as that soundtrack is, the transfer is better. This 2.35:1 anamorphic picture is full of deep blacks and shimmering surfaces. This is just the sort of presentation that best utilizes this format. Show this disc to friends that are non-believers.
Extras: While not feature-loaded, Training Day is accompanied by a fair amount of interesting and worthwhile extras. First up is a commentary track featuring director Antoine Fuqua. Though he’s made some pretty bad movies in the past, Fuqua proves to be an intelligent and interesting speaker. He provides valuable insights into the motivation of the characters and offers an insiders-view of the filmmaking process. Unfortunately, he also tends to disappear for minutes at a time. Nevertheless, this is a top-notch commentary track that perfectly complements the movie.
Next up is 12-minutes of deleted scenes, presented non-anamorphically. These are all quite interesting, and one could have even been left in the film (a lengthy monologue by Washington). Also included is an alternate ending, which runs around five minutes.
Up next is a 15-minute behind-the-scenes documentary. This is actually pretty good, and doesn’t rely too much on just showing us clips from the movie while actors talk about them. We’re shown a fair amount of footage from the making of the movie, and folks actually involved in the film get to talk (technical advisors, the screenwriter, etc).
Rounding out the disc are some cast filmographies, two music videos (for “#1” by Nelly and “Got You” by Pharoahe Monch) and a trailer.
Conclusion: Training Day is crackerjack entertainment through and through. Armed with a sensational sounding and looking DVD, this is surely a disc worth picking up.
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