Training Day (2001) (DVD)
Starring Denzel Washington et al
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Steve, . 27 March 2003
A film review by Steve Rhodes
Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes
In TRAINING DAY, veteran narcotics officer Alonzo Harris has long since crossed the line and not by just a little bit. He's not just a dirty cop. He's downright filthy. Played wonderfully against type by Denzel Washington, Alonzo is the role that could win Washington (THE HURRICANE and MALCOLM X) his long deserved best actor Oscar to go along with his supporting actor Oscar for GLORY. It's also clear that Washington loves the freedom that playing a bad guy affords him. You may find yourself feeling almost uneasy given how much you enjoy watching his character. You want to loathe him, and you do, but Washington gives Alonzo a disturbingly appealing side.
This strongly violent film never pulls its punches. Alonzo may have a magnetic and sometimes humorous personality, but he's as evil as the devil himself. If he was once a great cop, as he claims, he is no longer.
The movie takes place during a single day in which rookie Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) has his baptism by fire under Alonzo's tutelage. Hoyt enters the day nervous that he won't be found worthy of being a narc and ends it nervous that he won't see the sunrise. In between is one terrific motion picture, albeit a depressingly engrossing one.
Hoyt doesn't know quite what to make of Alonzo and constantly seems confused as to what is happening. Even the basic goals and techniques that they taught him in the police academy are completely out the window. In this world turned upside down, he is required by Alonzo to smoke PCP-laced marijuana during his first hour on the street. Alonzo makes it almost plausible that smoking dope is important training. Alonzo likes to taunt Hoyt by calling him a virgin, which is an apt metaphor. Another is the wolf vs. sheep analogy that Alonzo loves. "You've got to decide," Alonzo tells Hoyt. "Are you a wolf or a sheep." Wolves, apparently, will do anything to accomplish their mission. But Alonzo isn't just any wolf. He's the leader of the pack.
Director Antoine Fuqua (THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS) uses facial close-ups that give Alonzo and Hoyt Mount Rushmore-sized faces. It's all very disorienting. Interlaced with these close-ups are slow-motion shots that give the audience a constant feeling of dread.
TRAINING DAY never flags until it gets to the end. Although the conclusion is satisfying, it's too over the top and too long. If the last act were up to the quality of the rest of the movie, we might legitimately hear this film being talked about in the same breath as L.A. CONFIDENTIAL and hear Oscar buzz for it. Instead, expect to see just Washington's name in the Oscar lineup.
TRAINING DAY runs 2:02. It is rated R for "brutal violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief nudity" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
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