Dear Denzel Washington,
This weekend, I saw your latest movie Safe House. I was sandwiched in the theater between a crying baby and two chatty Kathys, but I managed to survive and enjoy your action flick set all around South Africa. Your performance as a rogue agent with the Bond villain name of Tobin Frost was effective and your trademark laugh was infectious. The chemistry you had with the normally sarcastic Ryan Reynolds brought out the best of him and was reminiscent of you and Ethan Hawke in Training Day (minus the PCP-smoking, of course). I felt my money was well spent.
Your audience, of which I am a member, is loyal to you, Denzel. Safe House made almost $40 million this weekend, making it one of the biggest openings of your career. It's a bonafide hit at the box office in a normally sleepy month of February. All the dudes without Valentine's went to see your movie instead of The Vow. It's obvious your fans will flock to whatever project you're involved in. You made two consecutive movies about trains and people still went to see them both. You're one of the most reliable financial draws in Hollywood because people like to see you kick ass. I get it.
Denzel, you are one of the greatest living actors. You are a two-time Academy Award winner. Your body of work is filled with some of the greatest contemporary American films. You have an unbelievable natural talent.
With that being said, I have one simple request; stop making the same movie over and over again and get back to being a serious thespian.
In the past eight years, I feel like you've worked with your buddy, director Tony Scott, way too much. You've made four films together (Man On Fire, Deja Vu, The Taking of Pelham 123 and Unstoppable). They all feel the same, look the same and act the same. There's gritty and nauseating fast cuts, odd color hues and they ultimately waste you. You're Denzel Washington, not Steven Seagal!
Why are you drawn to these movies? Did Scott save your life and you feel indebted to him? I'm guessing you don't do it for the money -- you're probably set for life -- but what are your motives then? When I first saw the trailer for Safe House, I immediately thought it was another pairing between you and Scott and to my surprise, It wasn't. It is, however, the best Scott homage (rip-off) I've ever seen. Stop trying to appease your audience.
Denzel, remember when you made movies that didn't have guns or explosions or trains or Dakota Fanning? Can you recall that your Robert DeNiro/Martin Scorsese, actor/director relationship was not originally with Scott and instead was with the visionary Spike Lee? You guys had an incredible run. You played a trumpet player in Mo Better Blues, a convict father of a basketball star in He Got Game and Malcolm freaking X in Malcom X! None of those movies were popcorn action movies and they contained some of the best roles and performances of your career.
You used to be an actor's actor. You starred in movies with rich characters that allowed you to dominate them with your masterful craft. Tell me if these movies ring any bells, Denzel: Glory, Training Day, The Hurricane, Philadelphia, Remember The Titans, Antwone Fisher. Surely you must remember the parts you once took that relied on your performance and not a filmmaker's gimmick. You played an angel helping the late Whitney Houston in The Preacher's Wife, man! Why have you strayed away from potential Oscar-nominated movies in exchange for mindless, albeit entertaining, schlock? Is it because George Clooney is taking all the roles?
Your next movie coming out is called Flight and is about a pilot who saves the plane from crashing. Seriously, Denzel? Because you have such a strong, hypnotic grasp on me, I will probably end up seeing it and contributing more dollars so you can continue making movies with transportation devices. Damn you!
I'm just asking that you reconsider the next time you get a script that says Untitled Denzel Washington Cruise Ship Project. Return to the character studies and add another golden statue to your already immortal resume. Make an independent movie. Hook up with a director like Spike Jonze or Paul Thomas Anderson. Send Tony Scott's calls to voicemail. Reach out to Spike Lee. Have co-stars that aren't solely up-and-coming Caucasian dudes. Avoid explosions.
We miss you; I miss you, Denzel. Come back home.
Follow Chris Krapek on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ChrisKrapek