Denzel Washington is known by many as one of the central figures within Hollywood’s new generation of gangsters. His name sells movies and rightfully so. The almighty presence of Denzel as a gangster is gripping. Together, the smooth talking persona and charisma only contribute to his all round talent.
Training Day, directed by Antoine Fuqua in 2001 is a film which I studied in depth during my time at university- as a matter of fact I even did a presentation on this brilliant movie. Writing about Training Day for the first time since university, I can now share my personal views on the film paying special attention to Denzel Washington. The film has an array of talent in the cast with key roles for Eva Mendes, Ethan Hawke and Peter Greene. In the meantime, Training day also dips in to the music industry with roles for Macy Gray, Snoop Dog and Dr Dre. Being an admirer of Rap and R&B music, this certainly works for me!
Denzel has won 2 Oscars in his 40 year career so far, one of which came from his leading role in Training Day, when he won the ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role’ in 2002, this itself speaks volumes considering some of the other films that he has played the leading role! The stage is set in this film for Denzel to perform to his highest standard where he plays the role of Detective Alonzo Harris. He is the crooked ‘bad’ cop and more than excels in his performance- he is scary! Somewhere between the first tracking shot in the famous cafe, to when he is killed by the Russian gangsters at the end, we fall in love with him.
There is a sense of excitement during his first appearance in the film. The camera tracks across the room from behind Alonzo, Jake Hoyt (Portrayed by Ethan Hawke) sits facing him, awkwardly saying “Morning, sir”. Alonzo completely ignores him; this is the very moment when his arrogant, selfish and obnoxious personality is established. We are given a minuscule insight into how he will behave for the rest of the film. For the rest of the scene that follows, Alonzo controls his trainee officer Jake who is clearly a bag of nerves, almost feeling like an inconvenience in Alonzo’s presence. Alonzo thoroughly takes advantage of this, with his quick talking and witty dialogue, which of course he delivers with power and authority. It is a way of Alonzo demonstrating to Jake who ‘wears the pants’- at least that is the vibe I get. This is backed further by the physical stature of both Alonzo and Jake in the scene. Alonzo sits in a Scarface like position, relaxed, glaring Jake in the eyes. Jake sits forward, shuffling and finding it difficult to maintain eye contact with Alonzo.
What does Alonzo do in the next scene? He walks right out across the busy road as the cars stop for him, Jake stumbling behind like a dog following his owner. This is complimented by a wonderful tracking shot.. absolute brilliance! They walk into a car park and climb into Alonzo’s snazzy Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Jake says, “So where’s the office, back at division?” Alonzo smiles and responds, “you’re in the office baby”. Immediately after Alonzo says this, the soundtrack Still D.R.E. by Dr Dre kicks in. It more or less makes you bounce in your seat! The film has been on for less than 10 minutes and Alonzo Harris has grabbed you by the scruff of the neck- You know for a fact for the rest of this film you will be in awe of Denzel Washington!!
Alonzo Harris maintains his firm personality, and somehow forces us to attach ourselves to him. We are lured into a false sense of security and somehow see through the crooked cop with the wrong intentions. He also manages to lure in Jake to an extent, a man that stands right on the law is seen at times nodding and smiling at Alonzo’s sweet talking. At one point he even smokes drugs when asked to by Alonzo. One scene I particularly enjoy is when Alonzo and Jake find a girl who was on the verge of being raped by two junkies in an alleyway. During the scene one of the men tells Alonzo “Suck my dick!” Alonzo stands him against a fence whilst handcuffed and humiliates him, melee attacking him with his guns. He says to him “You like to rape young girls?” before chopping him vigorously to the throat. The man is a rapist, and for this reason we are right behind Alonzo- the way he inflicts his power to scare the vile rapist is executed to perfection!
There are countless other moments in the film that show Denzel at his best. We get a glimpse of his gangster ego amongst the fast-paced editing during a gunfight in the neighbourhood, along with his performance during the robbery scene where he influences his peers. Although for me, the best and most intense scene comes near the end of the film during the confrontation between Alonzo and Jake. This is the scene where we see the power shift between the two. In my personal opinion this is one of the most powerful scenes I have ever seen where Denzel Washington plays the lead role. His acting here is key and unrivalled as he beats his chest screaming “King Kong ain’t got shit, on me!
Here are just a few quotes from Alonzo in the film:
“If I was a drug dealer, you’d be dead by now, motherfucker. You turn shit down on the streets, and the chief brings your wife a crisply folded flag. What the fuck’s wrong with you?”
“To protect the sheep you gotta catch the wolf, and it takes a wolf to catch a wolf.”
“You gonna bust your cherry killing a cop? You know what you get for that, Jake? The gas chamber. You know what the gas chamber smells like? Pine oil. I’ma send you to a pine oil heaven. I’ma get that gun and I’ma get that money, and you ain’t gon’ do shit ’cause you ain’t gon’ shoot a cop in the back.”
If you haven’t seen Training Day go and watch it, and if you are one who admires Denzel Washington definitely go and watch it! I hope you liked my post, what do you think about his performance throughout? I’d love to know!
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