“King Kong ain’t got nothing on me.”
Training Day stars Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington in the role of Alonzo Harris. Harris, who is one of the meanest, baddest cops in the city of LA, is a person who cruises the streets in his customized Caddy. Harris, in one of the film’s opening scenes, meets Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke), a young cop whose dream is to be promoted to the elite narc squad. Naturally, this is Jake’s first day of training, and he is thrown into the arms of Harris. Alonzo tries to show him the streets so he can understand everything. He has Jake smoke pot just because he can. In one interesting scene, possibly Alonzo being a tough-ass to Jake, he doesn’t arrest two rapists like Jake wants to, but instead, proceeds to beat the living crap out of them.
For Alonzo, acting the way he does is simply because this is the way Alonzo feels he should act. As he tells Jake in one scene, “If you turn down gifts on the street, you’ll be dead.” Jake, who has just learned his pot has been laced with PCP, has awoken to find out that he is now involved with a raid on a drug dealer’s house. Alonzo continues to take Jake on these various trips, which all seem to be teaching Jake more and more about the type of cop Alonzo truly is. It makes me wonder if all LA cops are truly this evil, not necessarily as a poke at LA and the crime, but possibly a look into the corruption of the cop field in itself.
For Denzel Washington, Training Day sees him venture into that rare villain role, a role he is not too used to. Director Antoine Fuqua (Tears of the Sun) keeps on pressing every little possible button Alonzo has inside of him just to see what type of character Alonzo truly is and to see what makes him really tick. Alonzo, toward the beginning, seems like the cop everyone fears because they can’t stand up to him. Washington is completely dazzling in the role, certainly deserving his Oscar. It is quite the odd feeling that whatever role Washington gets himself into, audiences are almost guaranteed a dynamite performance.
I’ve recently read, with the recent re-release on this film onto the new 4K format (as reviewed here), that many audiences were puzzled by the film’s ending. Not wanting to give away the ending, obviously, I will say that the ending can be a bit puzzling in that all of these extremities are suddenly changed, one may think, in a few moments. But if you carefully view the film, you will see that the changes have been occurring throughout the entirety of the film.
Training Day is presented in its near original aspect ratio (2.35:1) of 2.39:1. The ultra-high-definition image presentation is arrived at with an HEVC codec at an average of 70 mbps. The film was shot on 35mm, so is native 4K. The reason for the change in aspect ratio has to do with a distortion of about 6% on the original release. So consider this an actual improvement and a more natural presentation. The HDR allows for more grit. And while there is an increase in contrast and shadow definition, there are still some areas of darkness where detail is hard to see. I can’t help but believe that was always the intent in those places. You will see an improvement, and while colors were never meant to pop here, the reference work here is another upgrade. There is some color correction applied here that my technical sources tell me is actually intended to bring back the theatrical experiences and true intent of the cinematography. I saw it at the box office, but my memories associate more with that first DVD and subsequent Blu-ray release. So like me you might find it a little off-putting. It wasn’t a distraction, and I’ll accept my source info.
The Dolby Atmos defaults to a nice 7.1 track which is obviously more expansive than the original release. Backgrounds are far more accented, allowing for an even more immersive experience on these L.A. streets. Dialog cuts through, and there’s plenty of action to surround you in the gunfire. The subs aren’t very impressive, however, and I really felt like they were asleep most of the film.
The extras are found on the Blu-ray copy only and are ported from earlier releases.
Training Day, as a film, is great simply because of, as I’ve mentioned a few times before, Washington’s all-star performance. He brings out the intensity in Alonzo Harris that few could have. Training Day is a film that is well worth your time, despite the possibly questioning ending, as the film is an effective, crafty thriller.
Parts of this review were written by Gino Sassani