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Training Day

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Training Day

Starring: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Rated: R
RunTime: 120 Minutes
Release Date: October 2001
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Snoop Doggy Dogg, Cliff Curtis, Emilio Rivera, Harris Yulin, Tom Berenger, Charlotte Ayanna, Scott Glenn, Eva Mendes

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
2½ stars out of 4

A few years ago, while reviewing a Denzel Washington film where his character falls on hard times, I expressed doubt whether he could ever credibly play a bad guy. The charismatic actor is such a natural Boy Scout, I speculated, that portraying true evil might simply be beyond him. Was I ever wrong. In "Training Day," Washington pulls out all the stops and delivers a hell of a performance. And when you see the film, you'll understand why "hell" is such a fitting word. Written by David Ayer and directed by Anthony Fuqua, "Training Day" grabs you by the nape of the neck and hauls you through a contemporary nightmare. While the ending suffers from an overload of coincidences and contrivances, the movie still packs a wallop as it asks the question: Can honorable men deal with the worst of humanity on a daily basis without being corrupted?

Ethan Hawke (or as I've always thought of him, the wince-meister) plays Jake Hoyt, a Los Angeles cop out to become detective. To that end, he tries to join an elite squad led by Alonzo Harris (Washington), an undercover officer legendary for his effectiveness. The hitch is that Jake has only one day to prove his worthiness to Alonzo.

The 13-year veteran narc tears into the kid immediately, challenging his straight-arrow training. "This is street justice," he declares. "It takes a wolf to catch a wolf... It's ugly, but it's like that." Within minutes, Alonzo bullies Jake into smoking a joint laced with a variety of chemicals. Stoned out of his mind, Jake tries to keep his bearings as Alonzo tours the grimmest parts of the city, introducing him to one incredibly dangerous character after another.

Even within his drug haze, the boy soon realizes that Alonzo is not merely an officer that plays fast and loose with the rules - he's a full-fledged rogue cop willing to do anything to get what he wants.

Some of the most harrowing moments take place in a neighborhood completely under the control of thugs. Alonzo lives there, convinced he is respected by his brutal neighbors due to his ability to work the system. In fact, they loathe the man and put up with him solely because of his badge and gun.

Taking place over the course of a single day, "Training Day" builds momentum and never backs off. The film creates and maintains a sense of genuine danger. As the proceedings grow ever more dark, you begin to wonder if the key players can possibly survive the day. Until the last 15 minutes, that is, when the story wraps up too quickly and in far too pat a fashion.

Regardless, "Training Day" is one of the stronger action/character studies to be released by a major studio in quite a while. Those able to withstand the intensity and violence will be rewarded with solid acting by Ethan Hawke and a towering performance from Denzel Washington, an artist who still has the capability to surprise.

Copyright 2001 Edward Johnson-Ott

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