Updated: Mar 5
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Ethan Hawke stars as rookie detective Jake Hoyt and Denzel Washington as Alonzo Harris, the meanest and baddest LAPD narcotics cop.
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4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy; 2001, R for strong brutal violence, pervasive profanity, drug content, and brief nudity; streaming via Amazon Video (4K), Apple (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K) YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “Crossing the Line” carryover featurette
ACADEMY AWARD winner Denzel Washington makes it clear, “This is a story about a guy who’s twisted.” He plays Alonzo Harris, the meanest and baddest LAPD narcotics cop, who one day takes a naïve, rookie detective – Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) – on a brutal training mission. He brings Hoyt into LA’s toughest neighborhoods where “It takes a wolf to catch a wolf.” The young detective believes Harris’ methods are justified. “Some of them I buy, some I don’t,” says Hawke.
The enclosed Blu-ray houses the majority of the carried-over featurettes including the excellent “Crossing the Line” with interviews from Washington, Hawke, the producers, and director Antoine Fuqua (“The Magnificent Seven,” 2016; “The Equalizer,” 2014).
Gritty and stylish, “Training Day” is clearly Fuqua’s best film, giving his two actors breathing room to perform at their finest. Hawke surprisingly keeps up with Washington’s intense energy all along the way. “I don’t think I’ve seen a character like this one [Harris] in a long time,” Fuqua says in the featurette. The director, who grew up in the projects of Pittsburgh, had a far-reaching understanding of LA’s inner-city, and was able to broker sit-downs with members of the Bloods and the Crips to film in the city’s most violent neighborhood – Imperial Courts aka “The Jungle.” “The gang members let me come into their world,” Fuqua says. He gave them the opportunity to play extras. “They have real scars and real bullet holes.”
(1) The rising sun over Los Angeles was a symbolic image director Antoine Fuqua developed during the production. (2) Rookie detective Hoyt polishes his new LAPD badge. (3) Alonzo Harris calls Hoyt and tells him to meet at a coffee shop (Quality Cafe) on 7th at 10 a.m. (4&5) Hoyt arrives and interrupts Harris’ reading of the newspaper. (6-9) Harris’ black, souped-up Monte Carlo is his office and takes Hoyt on a whirlwind tour of inter-city L.A.
The unpredictable script is from David Ayer (“End of Watch,” “Suicide Squad”), who grew up in the Rampart area of LA. “So, everything about it has the smell of authenticity,” says producer Bobby Newmyer. Fuqua pushed the story way beyond the written interplay inside Harris’ black, souped-up Monte Carlo, into the neighborhoods and “The people that it affects. Good or bad.” Washington views Harris as a guy trying to teach Hoyt how to be a good cop his way: “We do what we gotta do, the way we gotta do it to get things done.” Harris tells the rookie that judges have sentenced 15,000 man-years of incarceration based on his cases. “ They build jail's 'cause of me ... My record speaks for itself. How many felons have you got?” He forces Hoyt to smoke pot laced with PCP, telling him the streets are different; if you turn down gifts, “You’ll be dead.”
The supporting cast includes rapper Dr. Dre as Paul, one of Harris’ bad guys, of the LAPD narcotics team; Snoop Dogg in his first onscreen role as Blue, a disabled drug snitch; and soul singer Macy Gray, “ghetto fabulous” as Sandman’s Wife. Plus, veteran Scott Glenn (“The Hunt for Red October,” “Backdraft”) as Roger, a former cop who’s now on the wrong side of Harris’ law.
Fuqua made sure his supporting actors were raw and had real-life experiences. “I’m more interested in people who have seen life. Life teaches you much more than anybody can teach you in an acting class.” He also made a point to let the neighborhood kids talk with Washington and Hawke, and check out the huge Panavision camera. “I wanted to bring something positive to the community,” Fuqua says. “I wanted them to see a film being made. You know, some magic, and see me since I came from the streets.” Fuqua got the filmmaking bug as a kid when a Hollywood production came to his neighborhood in Pittsburgh.
(1) Harris and Hoyt stop a car of college students who just purchased some drugs. “Put your hands on your chest,” yells Harris. (2) Harris forces Hoyt to smoke the pot they confiscated, but one problem it was lashed with PCP. (3) Harris stops by the home of Roger (Scott Glenn), a former cop. (4&5) Hoyt stops two crackheads from raping Letty (Samantha Estaban) a 14-year-old student. (6) Harris threatens to shoot one of the addicts (Garland Whitt) (7) Harris shakes down drug dealer Blue played by Snoop Dogg. (8) Soul singer Macy Gray plays Sandman’s Wife.
Additional extras include an alternate ending and deleted scenes. The 4K disc features Fuqua’s informative commentary track, where he provides backstories and insights into his vision. He opens with the time-lapse rising sun and how it represented, “The dream, the clock, hell, and the eye of the devil.” He also sets up what he calls Hoyt’s “fatal flaw,” his hunger for a larger home like the veteran narcotics cops have. “That ambition is what is going to take him into all things we are about to see. It shows he’s human.”
“It’s a morality tale, a tale of what one man does when faced with a choice. Is there just one morality, or are there many moralities?” –Jeffery Silver, producer
The 4K and Blu-ray are both encoded from the new Warner Brothers 4K master sourced from a scan of the original 35mm camera negative (2.35:1 aspect ratio). A good layer of natural film grain is evident on both formats. The 4K takes the resolution to a higher level, with more clarity in the distant cityscapes to Fuqua’s trademark close-ups.
HDR grading on the physical disc is limited to the standard HDR10, while digital platforms get the more advanced Dolby Vision. The color grading is well saturated, with its palette of greens, and warm tones, while the contrast levels are superior to previous editions. HDR10 brightness peaks at 983 nits and averages at 109 nits. While highlights are more controlled, the overall black levels are deep and dark without losing detail in the shadows – especially during the night scene at Imperial Courts.
(1) Harris tells Hoyt, “If this type of shit shakes you up, maybe you should go back to your division.” (2) Harris and Hoyt arrive at Imperial Courts aka “The Jungle.” Bone (Clue Sloan, a former member of the notorious L.A. Bloods) thanks Harris for taking care of his nephew. (3) Harris introduces Hoyt to his mistress Sarah (Eva Mendes) and his son, who live in the Courts. (4) Harris and his bad boys raid Roger’s house and dig up a stash of $4 million.
The 4K and Blu-ray both feature the new, remastered eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack sending a pulsing cacophony of city environment sounds – gun blast and music cues – to height speakers. The bass response is quite active during hip-hop music moments, but dialogue never gets lost if speakers are well-balanced and played at reference levels.
Music is provided by the likes of Dr. Dre, P Diddy, Cypress Hill, Nelly, Pharoahe Monch, and David Bowie.
Hats off to Warner for a fabulous restoration of the 20-plus-old urban classic. Who knows, with today’s more inclusive and diverse Academy voting body, if “Training Day” would’ve received more than the two Oscar nods it got in 2002, with Washington winning Best Actor and Hawke getting nominated for Best Supporting Actor? Best Picture and Best Director nominations could’ve been a real possibility.
SIDE NOTE: The online site Looper.com selected the 50 Best Cop Movies of All Time and “Training Day” landed squarely in the center at No. 26 between “Dirty Harry” and “Donnie Brasco,” while David Fincher’s “Se7en” was No. 1 and “Silence of the Lambs” No. 2. But, on Movieweb.com The Best Dirty Cop Movies List, “Training Day” was No. 1 and Scorsese’s “The Departed” at No. 2.
– Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch, producer
(1&2) Harris leaves Hoyt with Smiley’s (Cliff Curtis) gang and they threaten to kill him, as he tries to explain to them how he saved Smiley’s cousin Letty from the two drug addicts. (3-5) Hoyt and Harris go after each other and the tables turn against Harris.