Denzel Washington is a famous guy. Since his 1974 film debut — he played the uncredited part of Alleyway mugger in Death Wish — he’s won two Academy Awards and a Tony, directed two films and been voted one of the most handsome people in the world.
This weekend, he teams with Ryan Reynolds in what will certainly be the handsomest film of the month, Safe House. The story of a young CIA agent guarding a fugitive turns ugly when their safe house is attacked, is bound to break the box office, but not all of Denzel’s movies have been huge hits.
Though he’s had great success with films like Training Day, let’s have a look at some of his overlooked films.
The 1991 crime-thriller Ricochet starred Washington as a Los Angeles cop-turned-attorney going head-to-head with a bitter escaped criminal (John Lithgow) he put behind bars. Solid action and a great villain from Lithgow’s psycho period — before he did 3rd Rock from the Sun and went soft — it never found the audience it deserved.
Years later in Training Day, Washington’s character flashes a picture of himself as a young LAPD officer. The photo is a still from Ricochet.
Washington has played his share of attorneys and policemen over the years, but he has never been afraid to try new things, as he did in 1993’s Much Ado About Nothing. In this all-star adaptation of Shakespeare’s most famous romantic comedy, he plays the powerful Don Pedro of Aragon.
The movie took hits for its miscasting of Keanu Reeves and Michael Keaton in key roles, but Washington was praised for his work. He has performed Richard III and Julius Caesar on stage, but this movie remains his only filmed Shakespearean role.
From the light comedy of the 17th century we next look at the post-apocalyptic The Book of Eli, set just a few years from today. It’s a strange movie. Denzel plays a coiled spring of righteous power in this timely movie about how religion can be used for both good and evil.
Finally, a movie that should have spawned an ongoing franchise but dried up after just one film was Devil in a Blue Dress. Rolling Stone called Washington’s take on private investigator Ezekiel ‘Easy’ Rawlins a “richly detailed portrayal,” adding that you leave the movie hoping the other books in the Rawlins series will be turned into films. Sadly, that didn’t happen.
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