Denzel Marchington: A Spring Retrospective


Depending on the year, March can be a very slow month for theatrical movie releases. For me, this has been one of those months. There have been a few movies that interested me, but not enough to keep me occupied for 31 days. On March 1st, I pulled a DVD four-pack out of my movie vault that I bought months ago but never watched.

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I have a terrible $5 DVD bin problem and I buy so many that it takes awhile for me to get to them all.

Originally I made this purchase because I had never seen American Gangster, The Hurricane, or Inside Man and I dig Denzel as an actor. To tell you the truth, after I bought it, I shelved it. (Alphabetically based on first billed film in the set, of course… I’m not some sort of Barbarian)Then, I just kind of forgot about it.

Thankfully, my girlfriend did not. She had her eye on The Bone Collector for a week leading up to March 1st and she insisted that we watch it that day. I hadn’t seen it since it was released on VHS in 1999 and was interested to see how I would like it now that I’m about twice the age I was then.

Overall, The Bone Collector was good, but not great. Angelina Jolie hammed it up a bit and the script was weak in spots, but Denzel Washington brought the character of quadriplegic detective Lincoln Rhyme to life and had me enthralled despite the film’s weaknesses.

A couple of days later, I had finished editing one of the podcasts and was looking to kill some time with a movie. The four-pack was still sitting on top of my Blu-Ray player, so I decided to pop in American Gangster.

Holy shit! How did I not see this movie five times already?! I was blown away by the writing, directing and especially by Denzel’s performance. It takes a special kind of actor to play a lovable violent criminal and Denzel fits the bill perfectly.

As I laid in bed that night, trying to fall asleep, I thought to myself, “What other Denzel movies have I been missing out on?” I scanned Denzel’s repertoire on my iPhone via the IMDB app. He has acted in 53 titles, and I had only seen 14 of them.

The next morning was when I had the epiphany. It all came together when I remembered Nerdonomy’s own Sarah Ashley talking about how she dedicated the entire month of January to watching Mel Brooks films. She dubbed the month Mel Brooksuary. It was time for Denzel to have a month; a month where must-see box office releases are few and far between so there can be time to watch plenty of movies at home.

And thus, Denzel Marchington was born. Both my girlfriend and I swore an oath to each other, and to Denzel himself (even though he was not there, obviously) to watch every Denzel movie we could until March 31st. We still had Inside Man and to watch and that would hold us over for a few days, but we needed more…and fast.

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 Boom! Another four-pack available on Amazon for dirt cheap. I now had six movies to watch while I built my Denzel collection for the rest of the month.

I could go into detail here about each of these movies but then this blog would be a mile long, so I’ll summarize all of them by saying this:

Some of these aren’t exactly great films, but Denzel’s performances always seem to rise above the material and make for a memorable cinematic experience. The movies that happened to be great AND have Denzel in them are doubly amazing. Which leads me to my two favorite Denzel films, which I bought soon after…

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 Man on Fire is one of my favorite movies ever; not just because Denzel is absolutely terrific in it, but also because I love redemption stories, revenge stories, and Tony Scott’s style of film making. I bet you nerds out there didn’t know that this movie was actually a remake. Why would I make that bet? Because the original, starring Scott Glenn is extremely forgettable. Tony Scott was slated to direct the original, but the studio thought that he wasn’t seasoned enough. Too bad for them that no one remembers the original, and Tony Scott’s version is a superb example of badassery.

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Good ol’ Glory. This was the first violent war film that my Dad let me see when I was a young buck. The image in the opening battle scene of a soldier’s head exploding after being hit with a cannon ball is burned into my brain forever. This is a monumental achievement in film with very few flaws. The battle scenes are realistic and gut-wrenching. Denzel, Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes and Andre Braugher each give phenomenal performances. I still cry every time Denzel gets whipped for going AWOL. It’s a really tough scene to watch, as it should be, and i’ts obvious that those few minutes were what won Denzel the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1990.

The only hole in Glory (hehehe), in my opinion, was the miscasting of Matthew Broderick as the lead, Col. Shaw. He tries his best and in a few scenes, his character shines but overall it seems he just wasn’t the man for the part. The hill I couldn’t get over was that Shaw’s New England accent seemed to come and go which made him seem unconvincing.

I fit a few more Denzel movies in by renting them through Redbox or streaming them from various movie sites like Vudu or Netflix. Crimson Tide was a disappointment. I had fond memories of that movie from my childhood, but it turns out that when you grow up and live in a world of seemingly infinite technological advances, a bunch of guys waiting for a radio to get fixed on a submarine doesn’t really do it for you anymore. I finally saw Flight which was another sort of redemption story and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I like it when movies shatter my heart to pieces and that’s what Flight was meant to do.

Well, true believers, that was my Denzel Marchington. I missed a lot of great films like Malcolm XPhiladelphiaDevil in a Blue Dress, etc. but with only a few days left, there is only one more movie for me to watch… Virtuosity: the movie that I hate to love and love to hate. Despite Russell Crowe’s over-the-top acting and the cheeseball CGI effects, it’s always interesting to see an older movie’s presentation of the future. It’s like opening a strange time capsule from long ago that is not filled with things to help remember the past, but things people from the past figured you would need or will still be relevant for the future.

I hope you consider having your own Denzel Marchington next year and be sure to check back for a whole new retrospective in March 2014 because we’ve barely scratched the surface of the Denzel catalog.

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