Antoine Fuqua and David Ayer’s crime thriller feels as fresh as ever
You really only every see Training Day once. No matter how many times you’ve actually seen the film, it’s a different beast each time. It’s a movie that practically pulsates off whatever screen you watch it on and pulls you into its world. The filmmaking is immersive and the script is a tight as a clenched fist, repeatedly delivering the kind of visceral thrills that can take your breath away. I’ve seen Training Day countless times over the years and it hasn’t lost anything off its fastball over the years and viewings. The movie is packed with so many awesome setpieces, quotable lines of dialogue, and explosive performances that there is always something new to appreciate like it’s the first time you’ve seen it. Training Day is B-movie material with A+ production values. When you have a movie that knows exactly what it wants to be and strives to be the best version of that thing, that’s where magic can happen. That’s how I’ve felt for 20 years and that’s the feeling I had as I rewatched Training Day again this week, this time via Warner Bros.’ new 4K UHD release.
Where to start, where to start. The movie achieved and earned its iconic status off the strength off Denzel Washington’s Oscar-winning performance as dirty detective Alonzo Harris. The King Kong speech alone guaranteed the movie’s immortality, but the truth is that nearly everything Alonzo says in this movie is highly entertaining and quotable. Alonzo is charming us before we even know it, as the first time we experience his character we don’t even hear him speak. But we do see the impact Alonzo has on other people. We see Lisa Hoyt (Charlotte Ayanna), wife of aspiring detective Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke), answer the phone and is clearly charmed by the unheard caller. There isn’t a character in Training Day that isn’t being schmoozed and played by Alonzo in one way or another. In a world full of wolves and sheep, as Alonzo explains to Jake in an early lecture, Alonzo is the alpha. But he has a finely tailored sheep-suit to slip into when he needs to. It’s Alonzo’s world and we just live in it.
But Washington’s performance is hardly the only badge of honor Training Day wears. Hawke goes toe to toe with Washington. Jake rides the line between falling under Alonzo’s spell and questioning if his mentor his peddling him an endless line of horse-pucky. Hawke’s work is less boisterous than Washington’s, but no less captivating (Hawke was also nominated for an Academy Award). Up and down the cast the film is an embarrassment of riches, with the likes of Macy Gray, Scott Glenn, Raymond Cruz, Eva Mendes, Snoop Dogg, Cliff Collins, Fran Kranz making strong impressions often with only one or two scenes. Every combination of characters and actors offers up a different kind of energy and keeps the film from going slack at any point.
Day-in-the-life movies, almost by design, tend to settle into an episodic rhythm and Training Day embraces that formula and makes the most of it. Ayer’s script is a hit parade of great scenes (anchored by the aforementioned supporting players), but Ayer smartly gives the story a circular structure, as Alonzo and Jake return to the various characters and settings multiple times. The story successfully balances the excitement of the day with the looming dread of Alonzo’s backstory (he got himself into trouble with Russian mobsters and has until the end of the day to pay off a million-dollar debt), creating a quicksand effect for Jake and the viewers. The more Jake learns from Alonzo, the deeper he sinks into Alonzo’s plans. Ayer’s script excels at building tension.
Matching Ayer’s writing, Fuqua’s muscular direction supercharges the action. His instincts for camera placement have never been strong. Denzel is the sun the film revolves around, and Fuqua finds the right balance of letting Denzel do his thing, while also showing how everyone reacts to Alonzo. Despite the film’s fast pace, Fuqua is patient with every scene, simultaneously building up the legend of Alonzo and chipping away at it. Training Day has always had a crackling look to it, and the 4K rejuvenation gives new life to Muaro Fiore’s cinematography. This is arguably the best the film has ever looked. Training Day remains a joy to watch and this 4K release is highly recommended.
Get it at Amazon: If you enjoy reading Cinapse, purchasing items through our affiliate links can tip us with a small commission at no additional cost to you.