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Posts Tagged ‘Training Day’
In 2001 Denzel Washington won his first Best Actor Academy Award. The movie was Training Day and Washington’s performance as the corrupt Los Angeles Police Department narcotics officer Alonzo Harris established the actor’s propensity for playing ambiguous antiheroes.
Is there another A-list leading man who explores the dark side of his characters as often as Washington? Will Smith and Tom Cruise occasionally let the heroic side of their on-screen personas take a back seat, but Washington revels in mucking around in the mud. From Training Day to American Gangster, Safe House to Flight, he has crafted complex characters you wouldn’t want to sit next to on the bus.
This weekend he’s back as Robert McCall, home improvement store manager by day, equalizer of odds by night. Based on the cult 1980s television show The Equalizer starring Edward Woodward, the film begins with the former black ops commando trying to leave his violent ways in the past. He meets his greatest adversary just when he thought that part of his life was over. Namely, the Russian mob leans on him after he tries to protect a young woman (Chloë Grace Moretz) from her pimp.
No other superstar seems as comfortable with moral haziness as Washington. In American Gangster, for instance, he was Frank Lucas, the one-time driver for a Harlem mob boss who rose to the top of the drug world by flooding the streets of Manhattan with cheap, high-grade heroin smuggled into the United States in the coffins of dead soldiers returning from Vietnam. He’s a dichotomy — bloodthirsty and ruthless, but he also attends church every Sunday with his mother.
In Flight, he played troubled pilot Whip Whitaker, an anti-hero who is functional in day-to-day life despite his predilection for wine, women and cocaine. He’s charming one minute, enraged the next and passed out on the floor the minute after that. Washington manages to subtly capture the ego and hubris that allows Whitaker to present a sober face to the public while bringing us into the messy world of addiction.
The actor has played his share of assorted good guys over the years — Ricochet’s cop-turned-attorney and Don Pedro of Aragon in Much Ado About Nothing — but it is his willingness to mine the heroism of the nasty men he plays that makes him one of the most interesting A-listers.
Synopsis: Out with the old and in with the new: 2013 contained many magnificent movie moments (and some bad ones as well, but let’s not dwell on those) for the Reel Guys and it looks like 2014 will be just as bountiful. This week we gaze into our cinematic crystal balls and choose the films we’re looking forward to in the new year.
Richard: Mark, years ago I loved a show called The Equalizer. It starred Edward Woodward as a private detective who helped people in need “equalize the odds.” It was a cool show, and as much as movie versions of programs like The A-Team and Starsky and Hutch have disappointed, I’m looking forward to this. Denzel Washington is masterful at playing ambiguous antiheroes and reteaming him with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua seems like a good idea to me.
Mark: Richard, I don’t know the show but I do like Denzel, I do like Fuqua and I do like the concept. One movie I am looking forward to is The Monuments Men with George Clooney, Matt Damon and John Goodman as civilians pressed into battle during the Second World War to save art treasures from the Nazis. This should hit all the bases for me.
RC: Clooney is always cool, and he also directed the movie, so I’m keen to see it. I’m also very excited for The Zero Theorem. Terry Gilliam says his new film is the third part of the trilogy he began with Brazil and continued with 12 Monkeys. If that isn’t enough, it stars Christoph Waltz and Matt Damon. And did I mention it sprung from the wild mind of Terry Gilliam?
MB: Reality check: Whose last movie was the unwatchable The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. When Gilliam stinks he stinks up the whole room. Just saying…. If it’s sci-fi you’re looking for, how about the RoboCop reboot, a franchise that’s had more reboots than an Ugg store? Or Transcendence, which has a Philip K. Dick meets Body Snatchers sound to it. Appeals to the paranoid side of my split personality Richard…
RC: I liked Parnassus! It was like a Salvador Dali painting come to life! Gilliam Rules! But there are other things I’m looking forward to, like Maleficent. The creepy but beautiful Sleeping Beauty villain is a role Angelina Jolie’s cheekbones were born to play. If the movie is as cool looking as the clips I’ve seen, I’ll go for the art direction alone.
MB: Sure, but I think we’re both ignoring what must be the Greatest Movie of 2014 — the cinematic adaptation of the great novel Fifty Shades of Grey. C’mon, Richard, admit it, you’ll be second in line to see it, only because I got there the night before… and I understand James Franco is playing the handcuffs.
SYNOPSIS: Denzel Washington plays a troubled airline pilot who safely lands a malfunctioning plane, saving 96 of the 102 people passengers and crew. Hailed as a hero at first, soon his unsavory personal habits bring him under suspicion. Was it a malfunction of a mechanical or personal nature that brought the plane down?
Richard: 3 Stars
Ned: 2 ½ Stars
Richard: Ned, is there another a-list leading man who explores the dark sides of their characters as often as Washington? Will Smith and Tom Cruise will occasionally let the heroic side of their on-screen personas take a back seat, but Washington revels in mucking around in the mud. From Training Day to American Gangster and Safe House he crafts complex characters you wouldn’t want to sit next to on the bus. Do you think this is Oscar worthy?
Ned: As far as A-listers in love with the dark side, it’s pretty much Washington and Leo DiCaprio, who I don’t think has smiled onscreen since Catch Me If You Can. And Washington gets plenty murky here — so much so that it made me wonder if we’d be rooting for this character at all if it were played by someone else. Let’s face it, the booze- and coke-addled pilot he plays here only has one attractive characteristic: looking and sounding like Denzel Washington. As for Oscar-worthy, I’m not so sure on this one.
RC: I thought he managed to subtly capture the ego and hubris that allows his hotshot character to present a sober face to the public, even though the film’s visual language is frequently not as refined. A close-up of Washington’s hand grasping a mini bottle of vodka and the accompanying swoosh sound looks like something that should be in a commercial not in a film about the effects of alcoholism.
NE: The tone of the film in general seemed to be all over the place. Who knows, maybe the whole film was supposed to seem drunk? In any event, it didn’t work for me. His hitting rock bottom is played for laughs, and Kelly Riley — as the recovering heroin addict he shacks up with for… some reason — seems to be literally in a different movie for the first 30 minutes or so. And as movies about alcoholism go, it probably doesn’t do Flight any favors to come out so soon after the much more nuanced and devastating Smashed.
RC: I think Smashed is a much more touching and effective story about addiction. As much as I enjoyed Washington, I wish the movie had been more concise. It flits around a half-dozen themes before the end credits roll which is two or three too many.
NE: Overall, the movie left me cold. It starts great — with thrilling takeoff and crash-landing sequences as the highlights, but it’s flat and uneven from then on until the moral kicks in without warning.