Training Day: A Standard Tale of Police Corruption Gets Energized by Great Performances (4K/Blu-ray)
It's hard to believe that it's already been over 20 years since Antoine Fuqua's gritty cop drama "Training Day" hit the screen. In 2001, corrupt cop flicks were hardly anything new, and while the film received somewhat mixed reviews, one thing that most agreed on was that it featured a pair of powerful performances from its two stars, Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. In fact, they were so strong, both received Oscar nominations that season, with Washington pulling a stunning upset to win Best Actor ("stunning" because Russell Crowe had won all of the major precursors for "A Beautiful Mind" leading up to the Oscars). This week, the film makes its debut on 4K, so now it's time to go back and see just how well it holds up all these years later.
As the film starts, we meet Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke), a police office who has been assigned to narcotics officer Detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) for evaluation. Jake hopes to get into narcotics and eventually make detective, but first, he needs to be shown the ropes by someone with a lot of experience. The day starts off with a seemingly-simple marijuana bust (which escalates quite a bit), but as the day goes on, Jake quickly realizes that Alonzo is no ordinary cop, using extremely questionable tactics and bending more than a few laws to carry out the job as he sees it. Will Jake be able to go along with it, or will this training be too much for him to overlook?
As mentioned, "Training Day" was released to somewhat mixed reviews back in 2001, and that's kind of understandable. It's fair to say that the story is a little basic, as an idealistic cop has to decide how far he's willing to go while tagging along with a detective who is clearly unethical and has no qualms about it. However, it's still a mostly-engaging story, with a number of tense moments that will have your eyes glued to the screen. The ultimate ending of the film is a little deflating, as in perhaps it's a little too easy for a conclusion, but it still works as a way to wrap it up.
While the story itself might not be particularly memorable, what most people do remember are the aforementioned outstanding performances from Washington and Hawke. This was quite a wild departure for the always-wonderful Washington, who had been mainly known for roles in films like "Philadelphia," "Crimson Tide," "Remember the Titans," and, of course, his other Oscar-winning role in "Glory." Getting to watch him fully immerse himself in a villainous role like this (and clearly having a ball while doing it) is a trip, while Hawke does a remarkably impressive job butting heads with him as a cop who believes in an ethical approach to justice. It's also rather fair to say that they are precisely why the film holds up and is still remembered over two decades later.
On the whole, the film is a decent look at police corruption vs. those that still believe in doing things the right way, which is admittedly a pretty straightforward tale, but it still provides an intriguing experience. It has its share of slow spots over the course of its two-hour runtime, but its two stars continually make it a compelling watch. It may have had a middling reception upon its release, but it's definitely worth revisiting all these years later, even if it's just to admire its two commanding performances.
"Training Day" comes to 4K/Blu-ray in 2.35:1, 2160p UHD/1080p HD transfers of outstanding quality. The film, which is now a little over 20 years old, looks as great as it did when it first came out, retaining a sharp image even in its darkest scenes. Likewise, the Dolby Atmos-TrueHD audio track is fantastic, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and the score in excellent quality. Overall, Warner Bros. has done a great job for the film's 4K bundle debut.
Commentary: An informative track in which director Antoine Fuqua discusses the making of the film.
Training Day: Crossing the Line (15 Minutes): A featurette that takes you behind the scenes of the film, featuring interviews with the cast and crew.
Deleted Scenes (13 Minutes)
Alternate Ending (5 Minutes)
Music Videos (Nelly's "#1" and Pharoahe Monch's "Got You")
Antoine Fuqua's "Training Day" may have a somewhat basic storyline about police corruption vs. idealistic justice, but it still offers up a mostly-engaging look at its subject, with a pair of outstanding & compelling performances from its stars that give the film the extra oomph it needs.
Available on 4K/Blu-ray starting tomorrow.
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