Please note that all framegrabs are from the 1080p version
DVD - Image A Sound A Extras B+
4K ULTRA HD - Image A+ Sound A- Extras B
starring Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Eva Mendes née Mendez
screenplay by David Ayer
directed by Antoine Fuqua
by Walter Chaw In Antoine Fuqua and Dominic Sena's race to become David Fincher, Fuqua, with his colour-bleached urban noir Training Day, pulls slightly ahead. Essentially a feature-length version of the Fuqua-helmed video for Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise," Training Day is dankly lit, grim, and edited with a veteran music-video director's need for speed (though there are considerably fewer cuts than those found in Fuqua's previous efforts Bait and The Replacement Killers). So smooth and accomplished is the harsh vérité look of the piece that the sun-drenched streets of Los Angeles are as much a player in the film as its leads. But the striking cinematography, sharp screenplay by David Ayer, and undeniable chemistry between Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke aren't enough to disguise that Training Day is one bravura performance away from being the umpteenth rote grizzled vet/greenhorn rookie policier. (With a healthy dash of Casualties of War tossed in for that Captain Bligh/Mr. Christian dynamic.)
Jake Hoyt (Hawke) is an ambitious young cop looking to make detective through the aggressive L.A. narcotics unit, which is commanded by the sociopathic Alonzo Harris (Washington, in his best role since Devil in a Blue Dress). Alonzo's been in the concrete jungle for so long that he's forgotten his creed to serve and protect, favouring Darwinism: "Let the scum take care of themselves... God willing." For the early part of the film, Alonzo's raving makes a fevered sense: In the never-ending, always-futile war against drugs in gang-infested neighbourhoods, what better way to fight crime than to become a criminal? It works for Batman, after all.
When Alonzo pulled a gun on Jake, forcing him take a few hits off a bong as traffic flowed past, I wondered if the film was going to be an even darker version of Lili Fini Zanuck's Rush. As Training Day drags on, though (it takes place over the course of one day, and you'll start to feel every minute of it), Fuqua and Ayer grow reluctant to serve a hearty meal of moral ambiguity to audiences with appetites shrunken by years of cinematic junk food, rewarding the earnest Hoyt for sticking to the book while punishing the effective Alonzo because he goes around the bend. Compare Training Day to Michael Tolkin and Bill Duke's underrated Deep Cover and the extent to which the ostensibly "daring" Training Day caves to convention is thrown into sharp, disappointing relief.
The mean streets of this L.A. evoke a paranoid agoraphobic's point-of-view, not unlike the San Francisco of Philip Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers; the California sun is a startling counterpoint to the Stygian darkness at the heart of Alonzo's smearing of the thin blue line. Ayer's script is full of sharply-observed moments and Hawke is an appropriately dim-witted foil to Washington's growling, preening, strutting ogre of a cop. It's ironic that Washington is the virile embodiment of the swaggering prizefighter to a far more successful extent here as an undercover narc than he was playing real-life boxer Rubin Carter in Norman Jewison's ego-guided misfire The Hurricane. The physicality of his performance is a thing of uncaged ferocity that rarely smells of ham.
Using actual gang members as extras, and with authentic-feeling cameos from the ever-craggier Scott Glenn and singers Snoop Doggy Dogg and Macy Gray, Training Day hums with a persuasive street rhythm and poetry at first but metamorphosizes (albeit slowly) into a recognizable grind, even touching base with Blade Runner during the climactic showdown. It's therefore as effectual as a familiar-looking undercover detective. Although it left me with a deliciously gritty feeling in my mouth, Training Day can't seem to find a way to a conclusion that honours the truth of its performances. It's a weathered formula dressed up in slick visuals and good acting--and earns a recommendation as such--that could've been a contender instead of just another lug squeaking by on a decision after a long and bloody bout. Originally published: October 5, 2001.
by Bill Chambers I didn't think I could sit through Training Day again, but lo: it's better the second time around. Warner's DVD offers an outstanding presentation of the film in all respects, from a near-reference quality 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer (undermined by wavering black levels) to guttural Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (whose surround effects are subtle and transporting) to respectful bonus material. The supplemental highlight for me was the helping of deleted scenes (there are five including an alternate ending), each of which textures--or would have--the final product. There's a great monologue from Washington that justifies his Oscar nomination for Training Day almost better than anything that wound up on screen, while Cliff Curtis makes a speech that cuts right to the heart of the matter around which Washington's Alonzo has danced throughout the film. The unused ending constitutes the most justified omission: it's silly and invalidating. (Note that in one trim, we see a purported photo from Alonzo's days as a rookie cop, and it's a production still from the Russell Mulcahy thriller Ricochet!)
There is no commentary for these cuts, although Antoine Fuqua provides a feature-length yak-track that's much more analytical of the story than the one he recorded for the Special Edition DVD of The Replacement Killers. As serious as a heart attack, Fuqua is quick to point out that most of his best friends are cops, yet he doesn't seem to see the irony in such a statement; his defense of the film's harsh language (as well as of a late-plot development founded on coincidence), on the other hand, needs to be heard. Rounding out the disc: the above-average HBO special "Training Day: Crossing the Line" (15 mins.); cast and crew filmographies; videos for Nelly's "#1" and Pharoahe Monch's "Got You" (which, like the theatrical trailer, are non-anamorphic in stereo); and ROM-accessible weblinks. Originally published: March 14, 2002.
THE 4K UHD DISC
by Bill Chambers Over the next year, Warner will be debuting catalogue titles on 4K UHD disc under a new 100 imprimatur honouring the studio's centenary. 2001's fondishly-remembered, Oscar-anointed Training Day, the first release out of the gate, sets the bar high with a phenomenal 2.35:1, 2160p presentation encoded for HDR10 playback. A film of blunt contrasts visually as well as thematically, Training Day favours chiaroscuro lighting schemes that plunge to Venom black here without swallowing the surrounding detail in the toe of the image. This is a transfer I would describe as strikingly luminous--the actors all seem to be lit from within, the way a 35mm print looks when adequately projected. Specular highlights abound, as the sun always seems to be glinting off the surface of a windshield or a Glock; in some ways, this is more Training Magic Hour than Training Day, and you really feel the heat of the film's perpetual sunset in 4K. Film grain is refined and controlled, while the wider colour gamut reveals ominous skies of Miyazaki blue, enriches skin tones, vividly captures the Ektachrome dank of Jake's drugged-out POV shots (see framegrab above), and gives the green crackpipe Alonzo insists Jake smoke an irresistible candy coating like a Jolly Rancher.
Quite simply, the disc is a time machine to the beautiful print I had the pleasure of screening at TIFF in 2001. For what it's worth, the accompanying SDR Blu-ray, sourced from the same 4K remaster, is comparatively flat, dim, and prone to crush, though undoubtedly superior to the 2006 BD, which overcropped the film and gave it a cold, blue patina in surrender to some formula cliché. The UHD platter's only stumble is excluding the original six-track soundmix, replacing it with a Dolby Atmos revamp that, in its 7.1 mixdown, features a beefy low-end and an uncanny immersiveness but sometimes leaves dialogue sounding squelched. (As an aside, the optional subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing are heavily paraphrased. It's not ruinous but it does rob the movie of some personality.) The only extra on the 4K disc is Antoine Fuqua's commentary from 2002: The DVD's remaining supplements, minus the ROM-based weblinks, have been shunted to the Blu-ray in standard definition. A voucher for a digital copy of Training Day is included with the purchase. Curiously, my copy came in a blue keepcase instead of the black kind that has become the market standard for the format.
- DVD - 122 minutes; R; 2.35:1 (16x9-enhanced); English DD 5.1, French DD 5.1; CC; English, French, Spanish subtitles; DVD-9; Region One; Warner
- 4K UHD - 122 minutes; R; UHD: 2.35:1 (2160p/MPEG-H, HDR10), BD: 2.35:1 (1080p/MPEG-4); English Dolby Atmos (7.1 TrueHD core), French Canadian DD 2.0 (Stereo), French DD 5.1, German DD 5.1, Italian DD 5.1, Castilian Spanish DD 2.0 (Stereo), Latin Spanish DD 2.0 (Stereo), Czech DD 5.1; English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Castilian Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, Korean, Latin Spanish, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Romanian, Swedish subtitles; BD-66 + BD-50; Region-free; Warner