Plot: What’s it about?
Narcotics officer Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) is a tough nut. Of course, being a narcotics officer in Los Angeles can’t be the world’s easiest job or one of the most delightful either. Yet, I must think it can be satisfying from time to time. A life of routine is what he has, but there’s always an unexpected issue that comes up. In this case, it’s his new partner Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke). Jake has been on the force for a few years and is good, but chooses the life of a narcotics officer as opposed to the paper-pusher he probably could/should be. His wife and new baby are a main concern of his (naturally), but his choice of work makes it very unlikely that he will lead a full life. Of course, it’s just my opinion here, but drugs are becoming more popular, cheaper and easier to get. A narcotics officer’s worst nightmare…
This may or may not be the case when it comes to dealing with Alonzo. Harris, who likes his coffee and his morning paper before he goes out to greet the streets, isn’t exactly what he appears to be. Looking more like a thug or drug dealer as opposed to a cop, he has been hardened by the streets and we’re not sure to go with him as we learn more and more about who he actually is. This is where Training Day begins. Essentially, it’s a literal day in the life of these two cops. Hoyt has been assigned to Harris to see if he has the right stuff to become an undercover narcotics officer. Our first impression is the same as Alonzo’s…no. But as the day progresses, we see that Hoyt is not just another pretty face, he is actually good at his job to the point that he doesn’t preach idealistic. Harris’ methods are obscure, for sure. He makes Jake smoke some PCP-based marijuana because he says that on occasion he must try some of the drugs and if the dealers think he’s a cop, he’s dead. Drinking beer in the middle of the day “gives you ballast” says Alonzo. To Jake, it’s a violation of the rules.
While these two cops are on the same side, they couldn’t be more different than night and day (and not just because of the color of their skin). Alonzo is a happily married man, but also has a mistress with a child in a remote part of the ‘hood. Alonzo’s methods are questionable and we’re not certain if he is truly this dedicated to his job or if this is what it really takes to get the job done on the streets. This is for Jake to decide. And Director Antoine Fuqua has finally got a movie he can be proud of. His last two efforts were ok at best, but nothing too great (The Replacement Killers and Bait). Denzel Washington is at the top of his game…again and Ethan Hawke shows that he can hang in there with one of the better actors of our time (Washington). Though I like to refer to this movie as “two hours of Ethan Hawke getting the crap kicked out of him”, it might best be said that you make up your own mind. Training Day is tense, gritty and a pleasure to watch.
Video: How does it look?
Training Day, like Fuqua’s other films, is presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer that looks brilliant. Much like Se7en, this gritty police drama has a lot of the color removed to give it a tougher look and feel. It works. One might expect that in Los Angeles that the sun would be ablaze and everything would look nice,shiny and happy. Not so. Though some scenes do give you a bit of eye candy, the image has lots of different hues and shades to try and set the mood (look at the cover of the DVD for an example). As far as the image goes, it is without error. There is a bit of artifacting, but it’s part of the way it’s supposed to look. Edge enhancement is non-existent and black levels are dead on target. A great-looking transfer for a day and date DVD release. This is the way it’s supposed to look and it looks good.
Audio: How does it sound?
Almost as impressive as the way the DVD looks is the way it sounds. With cast members Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre in the lineup, you can be in for some good music to set the mood. A few car chase scenes, plenty of gunfire and lots of action will have your speakers working overtime here. Though the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix could sound a bit better. The dialogue is very clean, free of any distortion. While the surrounds do a great job of conveying the atmosphere, they could be used a bit more. Still, the mix here is great, just watch the last five minutes to be reminded of movies like Saving Private Ryan or Heat. Excellent.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Though not busting at the seams with supplements, Training Day does feature a good selection of extras to keep you busy for a while. First up is the feature-length commentary track by Director Antoine Fuqua. Fuqua seems very proud of his work here, as he should be, and is full of little interesting details about the shoot. Being a solo commentary, though, there are some empty spots that detract from the value of the track. Still, it’s a good track and one I rather enjoyed. Next up is an HBO First Look: The Making of Training Day. Like other HBO First Looks…this is more of the same. It’s very well-made, but just has interviews with the cast and crew about what the movie is and how much Actor A loved working with Actor B and so on. While it’s nice to see it included, the movie itself will be more worth your time. An alternate ending (actually, it’s more like an extended ending) is also included and I can’t say too much about it or I’d give it away, and I don’t want to do that! Also included are two music videos: Nelly’s “#1” and Pharoahe Monch’s “Got You”. Some cast bios and a trailer in anamorphic widescreen are also included. Additionally, some DVD-ROM material is included; a link to the original website and future online events.