Antoine Fuqua rejuvenates the gritty cop drama genre for a new generation with Training Day starring Ethan Hawke and an Oscar-winning turn from Denzel Washington. Over twenty years later this searing thriller written by David Ayer still packs a wallop and now looks and sounds better than ever thanks to a terrific HDR10 transfer and Atmos audio upgrades. King Kong (1976 at least) ain't got nothing on this disc! Highly Recommended
Moving up from patrolman, rookie LAPD officer Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) just scored a peach of an assignment, the newest recruit of an elite undercover narco unit run by the legendary Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington). It’s the first day on the job and he’s eager to impress, but Jake soon gets a look behind the curtain and not everything is as he assumed. Corruption, abuse of power, and murder are just some of the crimes Jake will see his fellow Brothers in Blue commit in the supposed name of law and order... and he's along for the ride whether he likes it or not.
2001’s Training Day would be a bumper release for some top-tier talent. After a string of misfires or grossly underappreciated gems, Denzel Washington would recapture true Leading Man A-List status with an Oscar-winning performance. While hardly a newcomer, Ethan Hawke would likewise score the opportunity to show his full range with an Oscar nomination of his own. Antoine Fuqua made a splash with The Replacement Killers aping classic John Woo firefights, but he never really got down and gritty as a filmmaker until this film. Up-and-coming screenwriter David Ayer would get to show his true chops delivering a slick, brutal screenplay with the kind of crackling dialog actors love to dive into.
Films like Training Day can go one of two ways. Path One is they’re a massive hit and everyone loves it all of the talent involved gets to open up a new chapter in their respective careers. Path Two is it’s a full-on misfire with critics and audiences and all talent involved would either have to undergo a severe career correction or fade into the background. Thankfully everyone brought their A-Game because Training Day not only works, but it’s still one of the best movies of the 2000s. Twenty-plus years later I still remember seeing this in the theater and feeling everyone bolted to the backs of their seats with rapt excitement and then chatting about the flick into the aisles and into the mall after the lights came up.
While I love this film and think it’s an amazing accomplishment for all involved, I don’t feel Training Day is a perfect film. Damn close, mind you, it almost gets everything right, but where I feel it slips the landing is in the final stretch. There’s a clear point before the final act where the film stops being a searing shocking thriller and then rolls into generic action flick mode. While Denzel got to deliver one of his best speeches ever in his long career at the end, the film suddenly plays it safe and predictable when it could have kept the grit. How the film resolves itself is the lone hiccup I have against an otherwise excellent and exciting showcase of new, rising, and established talent bringing their best.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day rolls up for a brand new two-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Pressed on a BD-66 disc with a BD-50 for a remastered 1080p edition and the bulk of the bonus features, the discs are housed in a standard two-disc case with an identical slipcover. The discs load to static image main menus with standard navigation options along the bottom of the screen.
One of the first titles to score both a Blu-ray and HD-DVD release, Training Day has long been in need of an upgrade - and we finally have one! This new HDR10 2160p 2.35:1 transfer simply shines like a beautiful new penny. Point of interest though, streaming 4K options offer Dolby Vision HDR so keep that in mind. But for this disc, it offers vivid clear details with a nice naturally cinematic film grain structure, the film has never looked this good on home video. Facial features, details in the grimy city streets and neighborhoods, and the film’s excellent production values are all on display. One frame to the next it just looks better and better.
Taking on a cooler color tone than the old DVD and Blu-ray, the film has a slight green push but avoids the harsher orange that other titles have been hit with. When and where it counts, primaries look terrific with flesh tones looking healthy. Black levels are a massive improvement here with a terrific deep inky pallet offering the image some genuine three-dimensional depth. The past Blu-ray was severely lacking in that department. Whites are brilliantly crisp without blooming - at least nothing unintentional. This is a very stylized movie from the get-go and it makes for a damn beautiful and splashy 4K debut.
Not to leave anything behind in the A/V front, Warner Bros. ups the anti with a full-throated Atmos track. To say this outshines the rather anemic old Dolby Digital 5.1 track is more than an understatement. Dialog is crystal clear at all times without any issues. Surround channels are fully active and engaging at almost all times. Even in quiet conversation moments with Jake and Alonso in the car after a bust, there’s plenty of side and rear activity just low enough to be present and natural but not loud enough to overpower the emotional heft of the moment. Height channels get their workout for location effects opening up or tightening the atmospherics as needed. There’s not a lot of call for pin-point effects for this film, but there are some great moments where those heights feel alive and active. Between the roar of car engines, blasts of gunfire, and the film’s badass soundtrack and score, LFE puts some serious rumble in the floor! All around this is damned impressive and worthy upgrade.
While WB went all out for the A/V package, they skimped on the extras recycling the same old assortment of materials that dates back to the stone age of DVD. The Antoine Fuqua commentary is pretty good, I gave that a bit of a listen again since it’d been about 20 years since I’d last heard it but everything else is old stale SD material. I’d have loved some kind of a new Denzel Washington/Antoine Fuqua retrospective since they’ve made so many movies together now, this is where their career partnerships started. So it goes, better than nothing I suppose.
4K UHD Disc
True enough, Training Day may not be the greatest gritty cop drama ever made, but Fuqua and company updated the genre for a new generation of post-millennium moviegoers. It also stands as one hell of a flick over twenty years later packing a hell of a punch, especially in this era with a new eye and scrutiny for law enforcement excess. To help celebrate 100 years of making movies, Warner Bros. finally gives Training Day a long-needed upgrade. The new HDR10 transfer is superb breathing new life into the stylish visuals while the new Atmos track lets the films’ great soundtrack and audio design rip wild. Bonus features are sadly a whiff; simply repurposed materials from twenty years ago that weren’t even all that, to begin with. But if you came to upgrade for the A/V offerings - it’s well worth it. Highly Recommended