BY CHRISTOPHER HEIM
It’s no secret that Denzel Washington belongs to the pantheons of bona-fide Hollywood butt-kickers. Over the span of a four-decade career, Washington has more than proven his versatility as an actor, taking on roles such as the hardened criminal, cop, detective, athlete, and many others. However, much like with Liam Neeson, there is a unique enjoyment to be had watching Washington kicking butt, taking names, and yelling out ever-so-quotable threatening dialogue. If Washington were to walk to me right now and yell at the top of his lungs, I would sincerely crap my pants in fear. With this in mind, in honor of Washington’s upcoming badass-flick “The Equalizer” (Sept. 26), here is a list of movies that demonstrate the badassery that is . . . Denzel Washington.
“Crimson Tide” (1995): This masterful submarine thriller shows the thrilling clash of wills between the new executive officer (Washington) and the seasoned commanding officer (Gene Hackman) of a nuclear submarine, which ignites after conflicting interpretations regarding an order to launch a nuclear missile. By far my favorite Tony Scott movie (seriously, it makes me cringe that people still mostly remember the recently deceased director for the super-dated “Top Gun”) and favorite films in general because it displays two of my favorite actors at the top of their game. Providing smart thrills, intense pack-and-forth debates, and a thought-provoking premise to go along with it. Plus, it’s Washington vs. Hackman, actors whose bad side you never want to land on (especially Hackman’s). The only match-up that could beat this is Washington vs. Liam Neeson (MAKE IT HAPPEN HOLLYWOOD!!!)
“Training Day” (2001): The part that earned him an Oscar for Best Actor, this tightly directed crime thriller features a departure for the actor. Instead of the tough but dignified good guy, Washington plays the corrupt detective Alonzo Harris, who proceeds to take the unsuspecting rookie cop Jake Hoyt on a ride he’ll never forget. Washington plays it bad and boy does he nail every scene.
Greatest Washington quote ever: King Kong ain’t got s**t on me!
“American Gangster” (2007): Who has so much power that he can shoot Iris Elba in the head in the middle of the street and get away with it? Washington of course!! Well, okay not Washington in real life but the character he plays sure does. Washington masterfully portrays the Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas in this Ridley Scott-directed gritty crime drama that follows the heroine dealers rise and fall from power. Boasts a great supporting cast, especially from Russell Crowe playing Javer . . . eh, I mean Detective Ritchie Roberts. That’s two Hollywood badasses for the price of one movie!?! Need I say more?
“John Q.” (2002): A modern take on “A Dog Day Afternoon” concept, Washington plays the title character, a desperate father who takes a hospital hostage in order to get his son a life-saving heart transplant. A great “how far would you go” scenario that has the additional layer of discussing the issues of America’s health care system.
“Man on Fire” (2004): If you ever need convincing that crossing the line with Washington is generally bad for your health, then Tony Scott’s violent thriller based on the book of the same name is incontrovertible proof. Playing a former assassin hired to protect a “new money” family, Washington goes on a bloody warpath when the girl (Dakota Fanning) he’s protecting gets kidnapped. The things that Washington does to find this girl display’s the actor at his utmost badassitude!
“Glory” (1989): Earning Denzel his first Oscar nomination, this Civil War drama featuring Matthew Broderick and Morgan Freeman is a great war film, which follows the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment (The first all-colored army unit). Washington plays Pvt. Trip, who is a defiant solider but also one hell of a fighter. Washington’s character is not the center of attention, but he sure contributes beautifully to the drama and ensemble cast.
“Malcom X” (1992): Portraying the influential and controversial civil rights leader, it was a role that Washington seemed to have been born to play. Directed by Spike Lee, Washington nails Malcom X’s famous speeches with powerful force and integrity, which deservedly earned him a third Oscar nomination. Need anyone to make a memorable and emotional speech? Washington’s the man for the job!
“Remember the Titans” (2000): A highly entertaining motivational football movie that is made all the better by Washington’s portrayal of Hermane Boone, a coach who tries to pull a racially-divided North Virginian high school football team together. Boone shows the team a lot of tough love in challenging them to work together and the results are both fun and inspirational to say the least. Who wouldn’t want a badass Washington as their coach!?!