Warner Home Video, $26.98
WITH TWO nominations and one Oscar for its acting muscle, this routine good cop/bad cop drama would ideally feature the commentary of Ethan Hawke (good cop) and Oscar-winning Denzel Washington (bad cop) on its single-disc DVD release (March 19). No such luck. So you can skip the few paltry extras to simply concentrate on performance value. Do our guys deserve their accolades?
Having played too many saintly black men in the past (e.g., Remember the Titans), Washington's unapologetic, in-your-face badassism is a welcome relief. "The shit's chess; it ain't checkers," he reproaches rookie partner Hawke. The same could be said of his acting: Seemingly simple opening moves have repercussions long into the day. His intelligent foresight almost transcends the script's clich鳮 As he alternately bullies, abuses, and encourages Hawke, Washington's joie de vivre shines through. Here's a character who relishes the game—even when he's doomed to lose it.
As for Hawke, do not judge him by the slacker goatee. The fact is that he gives a solid, adult performance in another role that is, like Washington's, rather rote. As the idealist being drawn into a Faustian contract by a suave, charismatic devil, Hawke shades his character with the sin of ambition. The former child star makes his eagerness to please his duplicitous superior touching and human.
Both men are emphatically playing Not Nice, which doesn't always win the hearts of AMPAS voters. Yet in the deciding awards-season logic, they're playing Against Type (like Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast), which does.
NO OSCARS await The Net, Bandits, Bull Durham (with commentary from Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins!), Thirteen Ghosts, or Jackie Chan's Drunken Master (all on disc April 2), although The Usual Suspects did earn an Academy Award for its screenwriter (Seattle resident Chris McQuarrie), who joins director Bryan Singer on the chat track. (That disc will be reviewed here next week.) For kids, Disney is pushing both its 1996 animated Hunchback of Notre Dame and a direct-to-video sequel with Jennifer Love Hewitt and Haley Joel Osment providing voice talent. (Did you need three names to land that gig?)