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Training Day

Warner Bros. // R // March 19, 2002
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted February 14, 2002 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

At its best, "Training Day" is one of the most intense, scary pictures that I've seen in quite a while. At its worst it's still an often riveting piece of work. The film stars Denzel Washington as Alonzo Harris, a volcano of an undercover cop; a man who can be remarkably charming one minute and brtual the next.

Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) wakes up one morning not knowing that the day ahead of him will change his life. Jake has been on the force for a while and wants to move up in rank; he finds himself in a "training day", following along Alonzo on the streets - the following hours are a lot more than Jake thought he'd be getting himself into. Jake has only one day to prove himself and he's certainly going to be tested: there's hardly a moment before Alonzo starts sinking his claws into the rookie, threatening him both verbally and physically, testing him telling him about his thoughts on street justice with lines such as, "It takes a wolf to catch a wolf." Alonzo is a rogue-cop, but one that has a remarkable record of arrests - and, as we find out, he may also have an hidden agenda. "Training Day" gradually reveals information, which is great - instead of putting everything out on the table, it keeps us unsure.

The film is Denzel Washington's film, but not entirely, which is a very good thing. Washington has previously been commanding in films like "Remember the Titans" and "Courage Under Fire". The actor's subtle, yet extremely intense performances have often been carefully orchestrated, always powerful, but over-the-top just enough and at the right time. I don't know of a single performance of Washington's that I've ever not liked. With Alonzo, he takes his usual intensity to the limit - he goes over-the-top, but doesn't simply go all-out for the entire picture. There's enough subtle moments sprinkled throughout the performance that we're not quite sure what Alonzo will do next. It's a genuinely stunning performance - the first of Washington's that I can remember where he's playing a bad guy - and it has just been awarded an Oscar nomination.

I previously noted that this is Washington's film, but not entirely. Certainly, Washington's performance is enough to be riveting, but Hawke's effort is good enough that he actually stands up fairly well to Washington's powerhouse effort. Another actor might have been lost completely. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Macy Grey also provide especially good supporting performances, as well. Technical credits are also impressive. Mauro Fiore's cinematography is gritty and somewhat less-stylish than his usual efforts, which works for the picture. Director Antoine Fuqua also has calmed down the fast-pace of his other recent efforts, "Replacement Day" and "Bait"; the result lets the tension build to a a remarkable level. Mark Mancina's score is perfect, providing serious intensity and propelling the picture forward.

The film has little pieces here and there that aren't as effective as the whole, but I really didn't feel that they took away from the movie all that much. "Training Day" isn't flawless, but this is a very impressive leap from director Fuqua's previous pictures, both of which had moments, but weren't memorable. "Training Day" is impressive work and I really am eager to see what director Fuqua will do next.


VIDEO: "Training Day" is presented by Warner Brothers in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film's cinematography is done by Mauro Fiore, whose work is often quite slick and stylish ("Driven"). He thankfully calms down his usual stylistic touches for a crisp and gritty look that suits the picture quite well. Warner Brothers has also provided a superb edition that really does a very nice job showing off the film's imagery. Sharpness and detail are impressive, as the image remained crisp, well-defined and often showed nice depth.

Problems are very few and very far between. Warner Brothers occasionally provides some presentations with slight flaws, but when they're at their best, they offer films with stunning image quality. The only infrequent flaw during "Training Day" is a slight trace or two of edge enhancement, which is hardly noticable. The print used is perfectly clean, with no grain and nothing in the way of specks or marks. No pixelation is seen and otherwise, there's simply nothing wrong here. Colors remained a bit on the subdued side throughout the picture, but occasionally bolder colors were present. Either way, colors remained impressively presented. This is a really excellent effort that is, if not reference quality, about as close to it as it gets.

SOUND: "Training Day" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 on this release. The credited sound mixer is Russell Williams II, who was also responsible for the impressive efforts on everything from "Dances with Wolves" to "Glory" to the recent thriller "Rules Of Engagement" as well as the upcoming Jack Ryan thriller, "Sum of All Fears". His work here is very effective and not over-the-top, which the sound could have been. The surrounds come up during a fairly solid amount of the movie, providing ambience and support for the music. Sound effects remained crisp and clear, as did the music. This is a very strong soundtrack that is not always agressive, but was exactly right for the material.

MENUS: Basic main and sub-menus with little animation or other "touches".


Commentary: This is a commentary from director Antoine Fuqua, who provides a very interesting discussion of the obstacles that occured during filming. While there are some stretches where the director talks about what's going on in the film at that moment, he also provides interesting analysis of the story at that point and the character motivations. When not talking about the story, he provides insight about the the casting process and research and experiences that the actors had during the filming. There's also other great details - it may sound obvious, but I didn't think about the fact that "Training Day" takes place in one day, so weather plays a factor during filming and has to stay at least similar. Fuqua also talks about the great experiences that he had filming in what are traditionally known as tough areas and how helpful the people in the area were. There's a few stretches during this track where the director is silent, but he talks throughout most of the film and when he does speak, he provides a lot of great stories and analysis of the story and production experiences.

Final Thoughts: "Training Day" contains an astonishing performance by Denzel Washington as a bad guy and a very good performance by Ethan Hawke. There are a few moments here and there that don't work as well as the rest, but overall, I found the film to be tense and very well-done. Warner's DVD presents strong audio/video quality and very good supplements. Recommended.

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Highly Recommended

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