Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington’s Latest 10 Movies vs. Greatest 10 Movies

Denzel WashingtonLatest vs. Greatest is a relatively new feature here at Killing Time.  We’re going to look at directors, actors and actresses and assess the state of their career as it stands.  We’ll look back at the last 10 movies the artist has done, give it a grade and then average them out to see where they stand today.  We’ll also rank their 10 best movies and give it the same treatment to see what they have been doing compares to their very best work.  (A quick side-note: if an artist is also a regular on a TV show we’ll grade the seasons as individuals and, clearly, artists need 10 projects to qualify).

Denzel Washington’s projects over the last few years have either been amazing exhibitions of his prowess (Flight) or safe, easy-going action films where Denzel is essentially playing the Denzel that Jay Pharaoh mocks so eerily on Saturday Night Live (2 Guns, Safe House, etc.).

Washington CAN do anything.  For a long time he pigeon-holed himself as a hero, but he bucked that with Training Day (which I don’t particularly even think is a good movie) and got the leading man Oscar he’s deserved on several occasions.  His big break, like George Clooney who we looked at last week, came playing a doctor in a hospital drama.  Washington moved from his role on St. Elsewhere into features and quickly became one of the most popular and charismatic actors in Hollywood.

flight-denzel-washingtonWashington’s dramatic range has no parallel.  The gamut of emotions and places he can take himself in a role is as wide as any actor ever.  He’s a gifted comic actor with excellent timing to pair with a natural likability, but he’s never really had a comedic role that matches the prestige worthy of him.  I’d love to see him do a smart comedy.  He can make buddy action movies and cash $30 million checks until he’s 65, but I’ve seen enough of those from him.  They feel a little lazy compared to what we know he can do.  Let’s look at his last 10 films:

WASHINGTON’S LATEST TEN:
1. 2 Guns (2013) ………………………………………………………………… 5.00
2. Flight (2012) ………………………………………………………………….. 9.25
3. Safe House (2012) ………………………………………………………….. 6.75
4. Unstoppable (2010) ……………………………………………………….. 8.00
5. The Book of Eli (2010) ……………………………………………………. 4.50
6. The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 (2009)……………………………………. 4.75
7. The Great Debaters (2007) ………………………………………………. 8.50
8. American Gangster (2007) ……………………………………………….. 7.00
9. Deja Vu (2006) ……………………………………………………………….. 6.50
10. Inside Man (2006) …………………………………………………………. 9.50
DENZEL WASHINGTON’S CURRENT WORKING AVERAGE: 6.975

Not too bad.  For as many duds as he’s had, he’s had two legitimately great movies and some very good ones.  But, honestly, Denzel’s better than a hair shy of a 7!  I honestly don’t know why, I suppose it’s because he won his Oscar with him, but Washington continues to make films with Antoine Fuqua, who has never impressed me.  I thought Safe House was dumb fun (I even own it), but he’s not a director that stretches Washington at all.  I mention this because the next time you’ll see Denzel onscreen is in 2014’s The Equalizer with Melissa Leo and Chloe Moretz Grace and it’s another Fuqua….Fuqua.  He’re’s the best of what Denzel has done:

WASHINGTON’S GREATEST TEN:
Glory (1989) ………………………………………………………………………10.00
Courage Under Fire (1996) …………………………………………………….9.75
Inside Man (2006) ………………………………………………………………..9.50
Flight (2012) ………………………………………………………………………..9.25
The Hurricane (1999) ……………………………………………………………9.00
Crimson Tide (1995) ……………………………………………………………..9.00
Remember the Titans (2000) ………………………………………………….9.00
Philadelphia (1993) ……………………………………………………………….8.50
The Preacher’s Wife (1996) …………………………………………………….8.50
The Great Debaters (2007) ……………………………………………………..8.50
DENZEL WASHINGTON’S CURRENT GREATEST AVERAGE: 9.125

Clooney had 9.425 last week and in a much shorter career on the big screen, though Washington is, in my opinion, by far the better actor.  The problem often is that Denzel is excellent in films that, overall, aren’t.  American Gangster is a perfect example.  Washington is outstanding and incendiary, but the movie is extremely flawed.  Training Day, same story, but even more so.  Washington doesn’t work as often as most leading men and when he chooses his projects, there’s a frustrating lack of logic, but when the right role meets his limitless talent….magic.
Denzel Washington

4 thoughts on “Denzel Washington’s Latest 10 Movies vs. Greatest 10 Movies”

  1. It’s ironic that he got a best actor oscar for one of his very worst films. But you hit the nail on the head: he commits to his movies 100%, even when no one else does. Denzel was the only person involved with American Gangster who seemed to care; in fact, he was the only person who seemed remotely interested in what was going on. He was GREAT, and he was clearly having fun. IMO his best all-time performance is in The Hurricane, and I am still astounded that he lost the oscar to Kevin Spacey. Spacey knows how to act, but Denzel was a LOT better that year. Along with Tom Hanks and George Clooney, Washington is one of the very few modern Hollywood actors who has the stature of an old-time movie star. He has an aura around him; he’s classy and he’s larger and life.
    Just out of curiosity, have you seen the original Taking of Pelham 123? It’s one of my favorite films, and it makes the remake look even worse.

  2. I have not seen Taking the original, but I imagine anything would make that remake look more hideous. But the problem wasn’t Washington. It’s never Washington. If he’s ever given a bad performance, I haven’t seen it. In that movie it was Travolta hopped up on meth and tatted up like a man having a mid-life crisis as Eminem. Washington lifts any movie he’s in, so imagine how bad that would’ve been with anyone else. It frustrates me that he chooses so poorly though. What he can do is just transformative. The NTSB hearing at the end of Flight, the confrontation with Hackman on the bridge in Crimson Tide (there’s a list: best legendary actor showdowns), the single tear during the whipping in Glory. I hate Training Day and I hate he felt he had to do it to get Oscar recognition because that’s why I think he did do it, but once he’d decided…oh holy hell was that character riveting. Exactly the same with American Gangster. Movies fail him; he doesn’t fail movies. Courage Under Fire is such an underrated film. I wish Meg Ryan would have gotten recognized for that movie. She was brilliant (only time that sentence will touch this blog) and it might have changed her career. In doing the research for these pieces, I’m discovering, I’m going to have to watch some truly horrible movies to keep this sustainable lol. I need interns.

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