Written by David Ayer
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Denzel Washington has become one of the most significant actors of our time. His ability to convince the viewer to see him as whatever character he portrays, rather than mold the character to his ability, is the main reason for this notoriety and for his stellar reputation. I have yet to see a performance by Washington that I didn’t care for, even if I didn’t care for the movie for one reason or another.
In Training Day, Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington star in this buddy-cop flick with an interesting twist. Hawke is rookie cop Jake Hoyt who’s coming onto the force as idealistic as they come. His first partner, Detective Alonzo Harris (Washington) is as corrupt as they come, despite being the head of an elite narcotics force and highly decorated. On the first day, Alonzo makes a drug stop and takes the drugs from the suspects without arresting the perpetrators, then puts a gun to Jake’s head to force him to smoke the drugs. Jake sees two guys attempting to gang-bang a girl in a back alley, and Alonzo lets both the girl and the two suspects go, preferring to let street justice take its course.
Of course, the question as the day goes on and on is how can Alonzo do what he does and get away with it? The short answer is that he is a department darling who has solved enough cases with favorable publicity that they don’t want to besmirch his reputation. The long, complicated answer involved the blue wall of silence and the sheer number of his fellow officers he manages to draw into his corruption.
So why does Alonzo draw Hoyt in so quickly, seemingly without hesitation as to whether he can trust the rookie? The answer is Alonzo’s overconfidence, plus an uncanny ability to play on the psyche of a young rookie and his need to fit in and prove himself. At the same time, I could detect a bit of jealousy from Alonzo for the innocence and idealism that Hoyt exhibits from time to time. Alonzo misses that time in a way and wonders how he went from where Hoyt is to where he is now. He doesn’t dwell on it long, but it’s hinted at on occasion and is possibly what drives him on the seemingly self-destructive course through a world where he’s managed to carve a powerful place among both the criminals and law enforcement.
Washington portrays Alonzo magnificently in this regard, having him cocky almost to the point that it is unbelievable. I am sure, in other hands, people would have thought that there was no way this character could exist in the real world. It is Washington’s acting that makes the viewer believe. He hints occasionally at what Alonzo once was, but he’s too far gone to turn back now. Instead, he embraces the violence and corruption in the world he’s become a part of, and displays no conscience about it whatsoever as he’s crafting a series of events that he confidently assumes will bring him out on top once again.
Ethan Hawke is great as Jake Hoyt. He almost idolizes Alonzo in the beginning, having bought into the public persona. As that is quickly stripped away, he doesn’t know what to make of it and goes along with what Alonzo asks. People might question how someone weak of character could end up in Hoyt’s position, but he really isn’t all that weak. Instead, he’s bought into the culture of law enforcement where everyone is right and they stick together. How can Alonzo be wrong in what he does if it produces the desired result, even if he skirts the law at times? Instead of a character piece where Jake’s innocence is stripped away little by little, it’s torn away quite violently and tossed to the side.
It is Hawke who has the pivotal role of just what turn of events will take place and it was nice to see that some of the more noble acts he commits during the day are what ends up saving him in the end. Every movie doesn’t have to be “happily ever after” but it’s nice sometimes to feel that when it all is sorted out things will fall as we expect them to. That’s even if it is a bloodbath on the way to that place.
Training Day is quite violent, and it’s realistic violence, unlike many other films. This could be disturbing for many people and caution should be exercised. I would definitely not let children watch it and even teenagers might not be able to grasp the full impact of what’s happening. To them, Alonzo might be “cool” because of what he drives and how he acts, rather than seeing what has happened to the man as he has lost his soul during the course of his life.
The script is well-written and tight. There’s little in the course of the film that doesn’t need to be there and the lines don’t come off sounding lame. Director Antoine Fuqua magnificently paced the film, giving the perfect balance of character-building time between the horrific events that take place that day and turning the lives of both men into something they might never recover from. He captures some terrific angles and uses the shading and backdrop of urban Los Angeles to its maximum potential.
I did like watching Training Day because it was something quite different from what I expected. Hawke and Washington are no Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, and there is little that is funny here. However, the fine performances make this a must-see.
• Cast & Crew Biographies
• The Making of Training Day Documentary
• Additional Scenes
• Alternate Ending
• Theatrical Trailer
• Music Video #1 by Nelly
• Music Video Got You by Pharoahe Monch
Categories: Movie Reviews