With nine Oscar nominations under his belt, Denzel Washington has proven himself to be one of the greatest actors of his generation, and yet it still feels as if he doesn’t quite get the recognition he deserves.
Out of those nine nominations, he has won twice – for his supporting role in 1989’s Glory, and his 2001 Best Actor win for his sublime portrayal as Alonzo Harris, here in Antoine Fuqua’s extraordinary Training Day.
It’s a brand new day for Jake (Ethan Hawke), who as a rookie cop, starts a new shift in a new department, that of Narcotics. He gets a call from his new boss, Detective Harris (Washington), who tells him where he wants to meet – not at the station, but at a restaurant.
Once he gets there, he doesn’t make a great first impression, with Harris coming across as more than prickly. He hopes the day can get better from this point on.
Unfortunately it doesn’t, as Harris quickly displays his personality that makes Jake realise, in no uncertain terms, that he’s not one for doing things by the book, and this is going to be one helluva long day of ‘training’.
Training Day is the epitome of a film, where all the stars seemingly aligned for all concerned, making it a true, modern day classic. Not only did Washington get gold, but Hawke was also nominated for his role. It also, to this day, remains the best work of director Antoine Fuqua’s career, as well as that of writer David Ayer, whose sensational script no doubt helped in him becoming a director, helming such films as 2014’s Fury, 2016’s Suicide Squad and 2017’s Bright.
Probably not enough credit is given to Hawke, who has to do his best to not be overshadowed by Washington, which might have proved difficult with any other young actor, but Hawke holds his own throughout.
But then you have Washington, giving easily one of the best performances of his career. His portrayal of Harris is nothing short of stunning, as he delivers a tour de force, a profile of a corrupt cop with only his interests at heart, who is thoroughly rotten to the core. He is, undoubtedly the villain of the piece, almost Shakespearian in stature, in what is a highly unusual move to have such a villain take prominence centre stage in a mainstream film. There is no doubt that he’s the one pulling the strings, often unpleasant, but always the focus of attention, with everything from his street lingo to his all black, gangsta uniform.
Also keep an eye out for a number of cameos from music artists, such as Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre (not a real doctor) and Macy Gray, all of whom Fuqua gets strong performances out of.
It’s the type of performance right up there with the best of his peers, of the likes of Pacino, with a similar kind of impact to his Scarface. But for some reason, the film isn’t held in the quite the same high esteem, which is nothing but an injustice, as it deserves to be, without a doubt.
It is a classic, brutal and beguiling, that keeps its foot on the gas from the off, and never lets off.
Even though it is now 22-year-old, it has aged brilliantly, with the script just as relevant today as it was then. And with this 4K restoration, it really hasn’t looked better.
This is the perfect time then for Training Day to act as a reminder, of how damn good a film it still is. With all those involved at the top of their game, it is indeed the perfect storm, making it a modern masterpiece.