It was a little ironic that when David Ayer finally stepped out of his comfort zone, he saw Suicide Squad get ripped apart by studio interference and torn to shreds by reviewers, while Netflix’s fantasy blockbuster Bright may have drawn in big viewership numbers as the platform’s first major star-powered blockbuster, but the reactions from critics and audiences were tepid to say the least.
For the two decades previously, Ayer had been the go-to guy when it came to writing, and later directing, street-level crime stories set in and around Los Angeles, although his brief sojourn into World War II with tank drama Fury was a superbly acted and often gripping watch. Of course, the filmmaker’s first credited screenplay was as a co-writer on submarine drama U-571, but it was cops and criminals from then on out.
Training Day first brought him to prominence, although every other aspect of the movie was completely overshadowed by Denzel Washington‘s barnstorming performance, which deservedly won him his second Academy Award, and first for Best Actor. There’s not much meat on the bones of the narrative, but as a performance piece and incendiary look at street life, it remains as prescient and watchable now as it was 20 years ago.
For Ayer, it acted as the launchpad that saw him deliver a series of similarly-themed projects including Harsh Times, Street Kings, End of Watch, Sabotage and most recently, The Tax Collector. He might be more famous as the unfairly sidelined director of Suicide Squad these days, but Training Day is still the definitive movie of his entire career, even if Antoine Fuqua was the one calling the shots behind the camera. And now that it’s been added to Netflix, a whole new audience will get to check it out.