The second phase of Denzel’s Washington’s film career definitely had a bit more action than the first. Beginning with the action/sci-fi flick, Virtuosity, the mid and late 1990s saw him step into a number of roles as police detectives, FBI agents, and military servicemen—culminating with a role as a corrupt LAPD detective in Training Day that earned him his second Oscar.
This hyperviolent, futuristic thriller didn’t do very well at the box office, barely recouping its expenses, but it became kind of a home video mainstay and was an early U.S. role for Russel Crow that would eventually lead to his landmark role in Gladiator five years later.
The movie is about a virtual serial killer named SID 6.7 (Crowe) (which always made me think of the bully from Toy Story) who escapes the bounds of his virtual world and enters the then-futuristic world of 1999 Los Angeles as a regenerative android. Obviously, the movie had some high hopes for the progress of artificial intelligence and nano-technology in four years time. (For reference, the typical home desktop in 1995 had a 400 to 1,000 megabyte hard drive and a 33 MHz processor.)
Washington plays former LAPD homicide detective Parker Barnes, who has been in prison since a botched rescue attempt that claimed the lives of his family and Barnes’ left arm (which has been replaced with a robotic prosthesis). Part of SID’s personality is the killer who murdered Barnes’ family, so naturally, Barnes is tapped to hunt SID down.
Barnes carries a rather distinctive looking two-tone SIG Sauer P228 pistol through much of the movie.
It features a Wilcox Industries UITC IR/laser sight with buttons on the grip. The P228 was one of four identical guns built for the movie by Ellis Props & Graphics. They would be seen in a bunch of other movies, including The Ghosts of Mars, Money Talks, and Barb Wire.
The P228 is a compact version of the popular SIG P226 in 9mm. It is in use with various law enforcement agencies and with the U.S. military in certain applications, where it is designated as the M11. It has a shorter slide and barrel than the P226 and comes with a 13-round flush magazine. It can also use the P226’s 15- or 20-round magazines.
During a flashback of the botched hostage rescue, several terrorists holding Parker’s wife and daughter are seen armed with the Skorpion SA Vz 61 machine pistol. Parker is later seen using it to kill the terrorists after the bomb goes off, killing his family and severing his arm.
When Barnes chases SID following the big shootout at the night club, he asks his parter to pull out his “crowd pleaser,” which turns out to be a Franchi SPAS-12 shotgun.
This shotgun was a favorite of Hollywood in the 90s, showing up in practically everything. It got a particular amount of screen time in the original Jurassic Park.
The real SPAS-12 is notable as it can be fired in semi-auto or used as a pump action shotgun. In Virtuosity, it’s used only in semi-auto mode, which we don’t usually see on screen, as it’s much easier to make the gun work with low powered blank shells in pump action mode. The gun’s gas system was also notoriously difficult to use with under-powered shells (which is the whole reason for the pump action mode).
When the movie opens, we’re tricked into thinking that a shootout in a Japanese restaurant is actually happening, when it is in fact a virtual reality simulation Barnes is taking part in. During the simulation both he and John Donovan (Costas Mandylor) use Beretta 93R pistols with wood grips.
Barnes’ gun looks to be an earlier generation 93R as it has a M16A1-style flash hider with vertical slits.
The 93R looks a bit like the 92 series of pistols, because it is a lot like it, inside and out. The 93R is a selective-fire machine pistol, designed by Beretta in the 1970s for police and military use, though it was based on the Beretta 92. The R stands for “raffica,” which is Italian for “volley,” or “burst.”
The pistol is mechanically similar to the Beretta 92 and can be selected to fire in either a three-round burst, or semi-auto via a selector switch on the slide. It is fitted with a folding vertical foregrip in front of the trigger guard to help add controllability in burst mode. A folding steel buttstock can also be attached to the heel of the grip. It had a high rate of fire at 1,100 rpm, making it tough to control.
Courage Under Fire (1996)
The Oscar-nominated Courage Under Fire was one of the first major Hollywood movies about women in the modern military starring Meg Ryan as Capt. Karen Walden, but the character was actually talked about more than she was shown, as she was dead at the beginning of the story.
Washington plays Lt. Col. Nat Serling, the Army investigator who is conducting the customary inspection of the circumstances of Walden’s in-combat death when she is nominated for the Medal of Honor, but the stories he finds don’t quite add up.
Serling also has a past that haunts him, like many of the characters in the story. While serving in the Gulf War, he accidentally destroyed one of his own tanks during a confusing night battle, killing his friend, Capt. Boylar. The U.S. Army covers up the details and transfers Serling to a desk job, which is how he gets the Walden assignment.
In the opening scene showing the incident, Serling opens up on a group of Iraqi troops with the Browning M2HB heavy machine gun mounted on his M1A1 Abrams tank (which is actually a mocked-up former Australian Army Centurion tank). He actually climbs up and fires the machine gun manually, when in reality, all versions of the Abrams, other than the M1A2 (which wasn’t in service in the Gulf), have their .50-caliber guns rigged to be fired from inside the turret.
This movie is a highly underrated thriller with great performances from a cast that’s packed full of character actors and stars alike, including John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, James Gandolfini, and Elias Koteas, among others.
Washington plays Det. John Hobbes, a Philadelphia homicide detective who captures high profile serial killer Edgar Reese (Koteas), who is executed tat the top of the film. But then, he starts seeing signs of Reese everywhere, and he comes to find out that Reese wasn’t really a serial killer, but really possessed by the spirit of a fallen angel, who is still very much alive, and hopping from body to body.
As a Phildelphia Police Detective, Hobbes carries a Gen2 Glock 17. His partner, Jonesy (Goodman) carries the same 9mm pistol.
According to this story on tactical-life.com, that’s pretty spot on, though there is a pretty big margin for error. The Philly PD allows its officers, depending on their training, to carry .38 caliber or .357 magnum, 4- and 2-inch revolvers as well as the Glock 17 or 19 in 9mm, the Glock 22 in .40 S&W, and the Glock 21 or 21SF in .45 ACP.
Toward the end of the movie, as his world unravels more and more, Hobbes is seen carrying a Smith & Wesson Model 36 in .38 caliber, which could very well be his backup gun or his off-duty gun for the department, as it is one of the permitted firearms for department use.
The Siege (1998)
Yet another forgotten gem that got lost in the myriad 90s thrillers. This one is a little hard to watch today, as it’s oddly prophetic for a pre-9/11 movie, and it involves New York City and several attacks launched by terrorist cells.
Washington plays FBI Special Agent Anthony Hubbard, who is investigating the earliest attacks until things escalate with the bombing of a bus and a crowded Broadway theater, plus a hostage situation at an elementary school. It culminates with the destruction of One Federal Plaza, including the FBI’s NYC field office.
In a turn that luckily didn’t occur after the real life 9/11 attacks, in the movie, the President declares martial law and the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, under the command of Maj. Gen. William Devereaux (Bruce Willis) occupies and seals off Brooklyn in an effort to root out the remaining terrorist cells. All young men of Middle Eastern descent are rounded up and detaining in Downing Stadium. Soon, angry citizens face off against the Army, which have to fight to maintain control.
As an FBI agent, Hubbard carries a SIG Sauer P226 pistols, as do many other FBI agents as we can see. Being 1998, that would have been just about when the FBI abandoned the 10mm and went back to the SIGs in 9mm briefly before adopting Glocks chambered in .40 S&W.
Hubbard carries his sidearm through the entirety of the movie.
Training Day (2001)
This was a big one. After a slew of Rom Coms and thrillers, Washington got back into Oscar mode for The Hurricane in 1999, but only walked away with a Best Actor nomination. In 2001 he finally took home that gold statue for his portrayal of Det. Alonzo Harris, a veteran LAPD narcotics officer who has woven an intricate web of corruption and violence over a long career.
The film follows him throughout a day and night as he auditions Officer Jake Hoyt for a spot on his task force—but he’s really setting him up to take a big fall.
The movie and its violence are extremely memorable, as is Alonzo’s choice of sidearms.
He carries twin Smith & Wesson 4506-1 pistols chambering in .45 ACP in a double nylon shoulder holster rig. Handguns in .45 ACP were approved for carry by the LAPD after the infamous North Hollywood shootout](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Hollywood_shootout) during which two heavily armed and body armored bank robbers engaged LAPD officers in a sustained firefight. Twelve police officers and eight civlians were injured and numerous vehicles and property were damages or destroyed by the nearly 2,000 rounds of ammo fired by robbers and police.
The LAPD at the time carried 9mm Beretta 92FS pistols or .38 Special revolvers, in addition to some patrol cars equipped with 12 gauge shotguns. These proved ineffective against the robbers’ heavy homemade armor, prompting the upgrade to .45 ACP pistols and the introduction of AR-platform rifles to the regular police arsenal.
Alonzo fires both guns at the same time when they come under fire from a group of Crips while stealing a drug dealer’s cash stash in the Imperial Courts neighborhood of Watts.
The two pistols from this movie would later be used by Michael Chiklis in his portrayal of a corrupt Los Angeles detective in TV’s The Shield.
Alonzo notable uses his pistols to threaten a group of college students buying weed from a street dealer, a couple of crackheads who Jake stops from raping a girl in an ally, and to threaten Jake himself. The only time he actually shoots them is after robbing the Sandman’s house.
We see a Glock 19 a few times in the movie. When Alonzo and Jake handcuff the wheelchair-bound drug dealer blue (Snoop Dogg), they find a G19 pistol on him. Alonzo threatens him with it, and then ejects rounds from the magazine one by one illustrating the decades that will be tacked onto his sentence if he doesn’t cough up information on a higher-up dealer.
One of Alonzo’s team members, Paul (Dr. Dre), also carries a Glock 19, which we see him holding at Roger’s house.
Apparently, in addition to the two .45 ACP S&W pistols he normally carries, Alonzo also has a Gen2 Glock 17 with a stainless steel slide on him as a backup gun. Jake makes him surrender it with his shoulder rig when he tracks him down to his girlfriend’s apartment, deep in Bloods territory, though this is the first and only time we see it.
Alonzo also keeps a M1911A1 pistol in a holster under his car’s dash. He goes to grab it near the finale, after crashing his car, but Hoyt manages to snatch it first.
Alonzo also has a shotgun hidden in a wire bracket under his girlfriend’s bed, which he uses to attack Jake while trying to disarm him after flicking a cigarette in his face.
When he comes up, we can see the shotgun is a 12 gauge Remington 870 trench gun with a sawed off stock, heat shield, extended mag tube, and a Mark I bayonet mount.