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The Good, the Bad and the Badass: Denzel Washington

2 years agoby:

After taking a week-off for TIFF following my breakdown of movie composer Hans Zimmer's amazing career, The Good, The Bad & The Badass is back with another column looking at an actor whose many great films often featured iconic music by none other than Zimmer. That man...

Denzel Washington


For about twenty-five years now, Denzel Washington has been one of the biggest stars on the planet. While many of his contemporaries have seen their share of career ups and downs, Denzel has been consistent, and actually seems to be growing in stature as the years go by. What's unique about him is that he can simultaneously open a crowd-pleasing action programmer like SAFE HOUSE or 2 GUNS, while also wowing critics and audiences alike with a movie like FLIGHT, which still went on to make close to $100 million domestically.


It's amazing how far Denzel has come from playing second fiddle to George Segal in CARBON COPY, or playing on ST. ELSEWHERE. Denzel just keeps getting better and better, and while he's in his mid-fifties, it's not hard to imagine Denzel's stardom continuing for decades more to come. Eventually he'll probably ease in to being a character actor similar to someone like Morgan Freeman, but for now he's still one of the best leading men we have. Even if his movies aren't always great, Denzel never ceases to deliver powerhouse performance after powerhouse performance.

His Best Performance


Believe it or not, before writing his article I had never seen Spike Lee's MALCOLM X. I was all but ready to name MAN ON FIRE his best film, but I figured that if anyone was going to take this discussion of his career seriously, I had to at least watch what many consider to be his crowning achievement. Suffice to say, they're right, his performance as MALCOLM X is the best thing he's ever done. It's a tough role, with him having to believably take his character from being a drug-using gangster to one of the most influential men of the twentieth century, and Denzel makes you believe that transition. Even though he doesn't look all that much like the real-life Malcolm, he absolutely captures the man and it's outrageous that Al Pacino somehow beat him for best actor with his showboating in SCENT OF A WOMAN (a fun role, but far from his best).

His Most Overrated Performance


I've always thought TRAINING DAY was phenomenally overpraised. Sure, it's a solid action-drama, and Denzel is fun in it as one of cinema's all-time great dirty cops. But it's crazy that this is the film that finally nabbed him the best actor award, as he's delivered performance after performance that absolutely dwarfed this. Denzel deserved the Oscar, but not for this.

His Most Underrated Performance


I always thought AMERICAN GANGSTER was unfairly overlooked. Sure, it made tons of money, but the critical reception was cool, and many people talked about being underwhelmed by the saga of Frank Lucas, who smuggled heroin into the U.S with American service planes returning from Vietnam. If you haven't watched it in awhile, it deserves another look. It's a sprawling gangster saga, stylishly directed by Ridley Scott, with a dream cast that not only boasts Denzel and Russell Crowe, but also features future stars like Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin, and a scene-stealing turn by Cuba Gooding Jr., who should have landed a comeback off this. The DVD cut is interesting, with a ten minute epilogue examining the odd friendship that ended up developing between Lucas and his one-time pursuer, Richie Roberts.

His Best Piece of Acting

This is an absolute no-brainer. Ed Zwick's GLORY is a wonderful movie about a regiment of African-American soldiers serving during the Civil War, and Denzel won a richly deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his part as Pvt. Trip, the regiment's most rebellious soldier. The scene where Matthew Broderick as Colonel Shaw has him stripped to the waist and whipped is a master-class in acting, from Broderick's revulsion at Trip's scarred up back, to the single tear that flows down Washington's face as he tries to maintain some semblance of defiance.

His Top 5 Films

1. MALCOLM X
2. MAN ON FIRE
3. FLIGHT
4. GLORY
5.CRIMSON TIDE
Next Up

Denzel's a busy guy, and is currently shooting the big-screen version of THE EQUALIZER, which reunites him with Antoine Fuqua. He plays former CIA operative Robert McCall who, after a crisis of conscience, becomes a kind of freelance trouble-shooter, offering his services free of charge to those in need. THE EQUALIZER was a great show, and this could launch a whole new franchise for him.

Source: JoBlo.com

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7:54PM on 09/20/2013
I'm hip to this article.

Kudos...:)
I'm hip to this article.

Kudos...:)
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12:29AM on 09/20/2013
Few actors project such confidence in their every role. I still haven't seen Flight, but I was glad that he was able to really bring his acting back. The man is always good, but he's done a few movies that didn't seem like they were challenging him, and a couple where you wish he had more interesting things to say (Taking of Pelham 1...2...3... comes to mind).

Al Pacino won just because he'd never won before. And usually, when an actor gets nominated in both categories, he's going home with
Few actors project such confidence in their every role. I still haven't seen Flight, but I was glad that he was able to really bring his acting back. The man is always good, but he's done a few movies that didn't seem like they were challenging him, and a couple where you wish he had more interesting things to say (Taking of Pelham 1...2...3... comes to mind).

Al Pacino won just because he'd never won before. And usually, when an actor gets nominated in both categories, he's going home with one of them. And politics were a little different in the early nineties, when Sydney Poitier was the only black man still who ever won a Best Actor award. They gave him an honorary award the same night they gave Denzel and Halle Berry their trophies. That night was ALL about politics (I still think Tom Wilkinson gave the better performance, surprised he still hasn't won).
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6:30PM on 09/19/2013

Pretty Good Article With One Exception

How could Man on Fire top his role in The Hurricane? That is easily the second best acting I've seen from him outside of Malcolm X. I love Man On Fire but no way his role in that or Flight was better then the work he did in The Hurricane.
How could Man on Fire top his role in The Hurricane? That is easily the second best acting I've seen from him outside of Malcolm X. I love Man On Fire but no way his role in that or Flight was better then the work he did in The Hurricane.
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1:38PM on 09/19/2013
Denzel is the man, I really can't think of a role of his I haven't enjoyed. He also seems like a great guy outside of acting as well.
Denzel is the man, I really can't think of a role of his I haven't enjoyed. He also seems like a great guy outside of acting as well.
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10:54AM on 09/19/2013

He can do no wrong!!!

It's true that even when he's in a so-so or pharmacies, Denzel still rocks it. I think his most underrated movie is Virtuosity. Watching him and Russell Crowe face off against each other in an over the top, cheesy action movie is awesome. He really is a fantastic actor who is always fun to watch on screen. I still need to watch 2 Guns.
It's true that even when he's in a so-so or pharmacies, Denzel still rocks it. I think his most underrated movie is Virtuosity. Watching him and Russell Crowe face off against each other in an over the top, cheesy action movie is awesome. He really is a fantastic actor who is always fun to watch on screen. I still need to watch 2 Guns.
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+9
10:19AM on 09/19/2013

Denzel is a rare breed of actors

The movie could be lame and awful, look at "John Q", and he's still amazing.
What?!?!?! No love or even mentioning his performance in "Philadelphia" or "The Hurricane"??????????

P.S. "Training Day" is probably the darkest side Denzel has ever shown, and was very Oscar worthy. Even his death scene is wonderfully done.
The movie could be lame and awful, look at "John Q", and he's still amazing.
What?!?!?! No love or even mentioning his performance in "Philadelphia" or "The Hurricane"??????????

P.S. "Training Day" is probably the darkest side Denzel has ever shown, and was very Oscar worthy. Even his death scene is wonderfully done.
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8:55AM on 09/19/2013
Denzel is the fucking man
Denzel is the fucking man
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8:32AM on 09/19/2013

One of the all-time great actors

It's funny that you mentioned Denzel's win for TRAINING DAY versus losing out to Pacino in SCENT OF A WOMAN. I view both as "sorry, we screwed up" awards: Pacino delivered some killer performances in SERPICO and THE GODFATHER without getting any love, and the Academy decided they had to give him something. Same thing with Denzel: TRAINING DAY was AMPAS' way of saying, "Yeah, we shoulda given you the Oscar for MALCOLM X, but here's one for TRAINING DAY instead."
It's funny that you mentioned Denzel's win for TRAINING DAY versus losing out to Pacino in SCENT OF A WOMAN. I view both as "sorry, we screwed up" awards: Pacino delivered some killer performances in SERPICO and THE GODFATHER without getting any love, and the Academy decided they had to give him something. Same thing with Denzel: TRAINING DAY was AMPAS' way of saying, "Yeah, we shoulda given you the Oscar for MALCOLM X, but here's one for TRAINING DAY instead."
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8:25AM on 09/19/2013
Been a fan of Denzel since I was a little kid, great actor. I honestly would have given him the Oscar last year for FLIGHT over Lewis.
Been a fan of Denzel since I was a little kid, great actor. I honestly would have given him the Oscar last year for FLIGHT over Lewis.
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2:23AM on 09/19/2013
Denzel Washington is a very talented and versatile actor. There's no role that he doesn't own. I really like him best in Crimson Tide, Man on Fire and Virtuosity.
Denzel Washington is a very talented and versatile actor. There's no role that he doesn't own. I really like him best in Crimson Tide, Man on Fire and Virtuosity.
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2:19AM on 09/19/2013
Yes Denzel has had an amazing career. To answer your question of why was Training Day the performance to finally win him an Oscar. And someone correct me if I am wrong, but it was the first time the academy gave an African American actor a Best actor win.
If that's true... And I think it might be... It was because his charchter was well a drug using psychotic cop. Wasn't he a pump to. The academy is run by a bunch people of Jewsish religion.

Coincidence?

Yes Denzel has had an amazing career. To answer your question of why was Training Day the performance to finally win him an Oscar. And someone correct me if I am wrong, but it was the first time the academy gave an African American actor a Best actor win.
If that's true... And I think it might be... It was because his charchter was well a drug using psychotic cop. Wasn't he a pump to. The academy is run by a bunch people of Jewsish religion.

Coincidence?

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8:27AM on 09/19/2013
Sidney Portier won twice. Denzel had already won for Glory. So please stop your ranting, Spike.
Sidney Portier won twice. Denzel had already won for Glory. So please stop your ranting, Spike.
11:12AM on 09/19/2013
MULTIPLE CORRECTIONS:
Nope, when Denzel won for "Training Day" it was the first time the Academy gave both Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars in the same year to African Americans. Halle Berry won Best Actress for "Monster's Ball".

First African American to win an Oscar was Hattie McDaniel in 1940 for "Gone With The Wind".

Secondly, Sidney Portier won only ONCE, for "Lilies of the Field". Denzel was the second African American actor in history to win Best Actor.

It's called
MULTIPLE CORRECTIONS:
Nope, when Denzel won for "Training Day" it was the first time the Academy gave both Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars in the same year to African Americans. Halle Berry won Best Actress for "Monster's Ball".

First African American to win an Oscar was Hattie McDaniel in 1940 for "Gone With The Wind".

Secondly, Sidney Portier won only ONCE, for "Lilies of the Field". Denzel was the second African American actor in history to win Best Actor.

It's called research, and it's on the internet if you are unsure of something before posting a comment.
12:05PM on 09/19/2013
@ Trav I remember the Oscar when he won for Training Day. Sidney Portier also won an Honorary Oscar on the same night. That said it's not too shabby to not only win and be on the level of Portier but to win on the same night as him too.
@ Trav I remember the Oscar when he won for Training Day. Sidney Portier also won an Honorary Oscar on the same night. That said it's not too shabby to not only win and be on the level of Portier but to win on the same night as him too.
2:13PM on 09/19/2013
Excuse me - Poitier won an honorary oscar as well as a Best Actor oscar.
Excuse me - Poitier won an honorary oscar as well as a Best Actor oscar.
1:41PM on 09/21/2013
@ChinoMoreno7
I did not know that every year the academy has a category of nominees for Best Honorary Person? You don't "win" an Honorary Oscar, you are awarded one for your career in Hollywood. Pottier has won only one Oscar for acting and had been given an honorary Oscar.
@ChinoMoreno7
I did not know that every year the academy has a category of nominees for Best Honorary Person? You don't "win" an Honorary Oscar, you are awarded one for your career in Hollywood. Pottier has won only one Oscar for acting and had been given an honorary Oscar.
2:17AM on 09/19/2013
My 5 favorite Denzel Washington Films:

1. Man on Fire
2. American Gangster (should have won Best actor that year IMO)
3. The Hurricane
4. Malcom X
5. Philadelphia
My 5 favorite Denzel Washington Films:

1. Man on Fire
2. American Gangster (should have won Best actor that year IMO)
3. The Hurricane
4. Malcom X
5. Philadelphia
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2:12AM on 09/19/2013
He's an excellent actor who is very charismatic, yet is very believable as an everyman. I liked the interplay between him and Gene Hackman a lot in Crimson Tide, Man on Fire is of course a tour de force piece of acting on his part, and I think he was also good in the Manchurian Candidate remake as a hero out of his depth and confused. That film's pretty underrated. Great choice of actor for this week's good the bad and the badass.
He's an excellent actor who is very charismatic, yet is very believable as an everyman. I liked the interplay between him and Gene Hackman a lot in Crimson Tide, Man on Fire is of course a tour de force piece of acting on his part, and I think he was also good in the Manchurian Candidate remake as a hero out of his depth and confused. That film's pretty underrated. Great choice of actor for this week's good the bad and the badass.
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1:27AM on 09/19/2013
Incredible actor. My favorite performances of his are Man on Fire and He Got Game.
Incredible actor. My favorite performances of his are Man on Fire and He Got Game.
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2:24AM on 09/19/2013
He Got Game is very underrated.
He Got Game is very underrated.
2:10PM on 09/19/2013
Soloist I actually agree with you. He Got Game is one of Denzel's best performances. Its subtle and beautiful.
Soloist I actually agree with you. He Got Game is one of Denzel's best performances. Its subtle and beautiful.
12:07AM on 09/20/2013
He Got Game is absolutely one of his best.
He Got Game is absolutely one of his best.
11:22AM on 09/20/2013
"what kinda guy names his kid jesus?" "its a biblical name." "duh"
"what kinda guy names his kid jesus?" "its a biblical name." "duh"
+11
12:45AM on 09/19/2013
I've always thought John Q was an underrated performance from him. When I saw that movie when I was younger his performance had me at the edge of my seat.
I've always thought John Q was an underrated performance from him. When I saw that movie when I was younger his performance had me at the edge of my seat.
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2:36AM on 09/19/2013
"I'm not going to bury my son, my son is gonna bury me!"
"I'm not going to bury my son, my son is gonna bury me!"
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