Click here to learn more about anamorphic widescreen!
Go to the Home Page
Go to The Rumor Mill
Go to Todd Doogan's weekly column
Go to the Reviews Page
Go to the Trivia Contest Page
Go to the Upcoming DVD Artwork Page
Go to the DVD FAQ & Article Archives
Go to our DVD Links Section
Go to the Home Theater Forum for great DVD discussion
Find out how to advertise on The Digital Bits

Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 5/9/02

Training Day
2001 (2002) - Warner Bros.

review by Adam Jahnke of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Training Day Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B+/B-

Specs and Features

122 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, Snapper case packaging, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 59:31 in chapter 14), audio commentary with director Antoine Fuqua, 4 additional scenes, alternate ending, HBO First Look: The Making of Training Day behind-the-scenes documentary, Nelly #1 music video, Pharoahe Monch Got You music video, theatrical trailer, cast and crew filmograpies, film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English and French (dubbed in Quebec) (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

When Training Day opened theatrically last October, I'd wager the furthest thing from the minds of director Antoine Fuqua and stars Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke were the Academy Awards. After all, gritty urban police action-dramas aren't usually considered Oscar bait. The Academy tends to prefer their actors handicapped, weepy, physically transformed or on the verge of retirement, not kicking ass and taking names - until recently, anyway. First, Russell Crowe wins Best Actor for the sword swingin' saga Gladiator, and now Denzel Washington picks up a trophy for this. Granted, there's very likely a lot of politics and making-up-for-previous-snubs working behind the scenes on both these wins, so I doubt this marks the start of a trend which will culminate with The Rock taking home an Oscar for The Scorpion King next spring. Even so, Training Day is a considerably better movie than I was expecting and Washington's performance certainly deserved the recognition it received.

Training Day follows Jake Hoyt (also an Oscar-nominated performance by Ethan Hawke) as he patrols the mean streets of Los Angeles with Alonzo Harris, the leader of an elite group of undercover narcotics cops. Alonzo starts playing mind games with Jake from the second they meet, constantly pushing and testing Jake's limits. What Jake can't figure out is whether Alonzo is a totally crooked cop, abusing his authority to his own ends, or just an effective one who understands that if you want to make a difference, you simply cannot play by the rules. It's in these early scenes that the movie works best, with Washington walking a fine line that keeps both Hawke and the audience guessing about what's really going on with him. Eventually, and perhaps inevitably, the movie abandons these murky moral questions for a more predictable tale of good and evil. But even this is done well enough that it isn't as though it's simply degenerated into a straight-to-cable Wings Hauser flick.

Washington makes the most of his role, chewing scenery with gusto when the moment calls for it, but he's also smart enough to tone things down from time to time. Hawke has the unenviable position of being the guy who not only has to react to Washington's histrionics, but also has to change over the course of the picture. The movie is really about Jake, not Alonzo. Hawke more than meets the challenge, matching Washington note for note and acting as a perfect surrogate for the audience throughout the story. Director Antoine Fuqua realizes that in a movie that focuses so tightly on two characters, the other roles have to be cast perfectly to make a big impression in a very short time. To that end, he surrounds Washington and Hawke with a brilliantly eclectic group of actors, including vets like Scott Glenn and Tom Berenger and musicians like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Macy Gray (who is virtually unrecognizable as the wife of a drug dealer). Training Day is an exciting, well-made thriller, with enough of a brain in its head to overcome some of its third-act flaws. To see this kind of thing done poorly, all you've got to do is dig up the Chow Yun-Fat/Mark Wahlberg movie The Corruptor. Training Day is a cop movie done right.

Warner Home Video has certainly done right in its presentation of Training Day on DVD. The video quality of this disc is beyond reproach. This is an amazingly crisp, detailed transfer, so sharp you can count the raindrops on the windows of Alonzo's car. The cinematography alternates between relatively natural light, deep shadows and the occasional use (but not overuse) of saturated colors, mostly bronzes and deep oranges. There would be a danger in a movie like this to balance the picture in favor of one extreme or the other, but the anamorphically enhanced picture remains stable and gorgeous throughout. The sound is pretty darn good too, busy and vibrant without being totally distracting. A movie like this depends more on dialogue than on atmospheric sound effects to be effective and the mix respects the actors' delivery throughout.

While it's not really a special edition, the disc's bonus features are certainly respectable enough to make it worthwhile. Fuqua's audio commentary isn't going to go down in history as one of the all-time greats, but it's fairly interesting hearing him deflect some of the criticism the movie received and speak about the use of real L.A. locations and residents (which is one of the most compelling things about the movie). The deleted scenes are a lot more interesting than on most DVDs. Cut in the interest of time, the writing and performances in these scenes are of the same caliber as what ended up in the film. The theatrical trailer, which is also included, also features some shots that didn't end up in the movie itself. The rest of the material on the disc is studio puffery. A meager "film highlights" section for the cast and crew (that annoyingly doesn't list anything for the director), two sub-par music videos and one of those HBO pseudo-documentaries (that doesn't really tell you much of anything about the making of the film) round out the package.

Released on DVD before its victory at the Academy Awards, Training Day might be a candidate for Warner Bros. to revisit as a more extensive special edition someday. Until that happens (and it might not), this is a good, solid release. While I can't really imagine anybody other than die-hard Denzel Washington fans really loving this movie a lot, I also can't imagine anybody really finding it utterly worthless. Training Day is an entertaining movie that delivers the goods and it's well worth a look.

Adam Jahnke
[email protected]

E-mail the Bits!

Don't #!@$ with the Monkey! Site designed for 800 x 600 resolution, using 16M colors and .gif 89a animation.
© 1997-2015 The Digital Bits, Inc., All Rights Reserved.
[email protected]