Whoa! If there was ever one movie that defined the word "explosive", Training Day is it. From the big guns to Denzel Washington periodically shouting "BOOM!" to test Ethan Hawke, Training Day is a gripping thriller that explodes all the way through. You really have to give credit to the suits who greenlighted this one for not trying to turn it into a bad Rush Hour knock-off, which is how it could have turned out.
The movie opens with officer Jake Hoyt turning off his alarm and rolling out of bed. Today is a big day for him. Today is his training day, his first day as a NARC officer that will decide whether or not he makes the NARC squad and begins a career. After getting up, getting dressed and eating breakfast, he kisses his beautiful wife and newborn son goodbye and goes off to work to meet his partner and trainer.
His new partner and trainer is Alonzo, a highly decorated cop who has all the same things that Jake has-a wife and a bunch of kids. But Alonzo is a true wolf in sheep's clothing. He is a very underhanded cop who knows the streets better than anyone. He eats, sleeps, and breathes the streets. He steals evidence, kills some suspects while letting other, "minor" suspects go, drinks, has a mistress who he goes to for the occaisional nooner (with Jake sitting in the living room, no less), and laughs when Jake gets fed up with his methods of testing and lays him out on the floor and points a shotgun at his head.
Alonzo informs Jake that he has just that one day to prove to Alonzo that he has what it takes to become a NARC, and off they go for a day of cleaning up the streets, with Alonzo finding the most disturbing and horrifying ways possible to test Jake. Alonzo points guns at Jake's head several times, tests his awareness by yelling "BOOM!", and makes him smoke crack, which he reasons as "...having the streets in your blood." If someone tells him to take a hit while on the streets, Alonzo reasons, what will happen? And we watch as Jake slowly turns from excited to horrified as reality sets in.
This is what Training Day is really about. It is a simple good cop-bad cop premise taken to an extreme. Jake is the average Joe Blow good cop. But while most movie good cops stick to their principles, and what makes Jake so different, and more realistic, is that he is consistently torn between keeping to his principles and going into Alonzo's world head first to make something of himself, which includes doing a lot of immoral and illegal activities. His dreams of what being a narcotics officer is turn out to be just that-dreams. He is marvelously portrayed by Ethan Hawke, who we sympathize with all the way through. He seems to always be burdened by guilt, as we can see in Hawke's eyes, which are always widening as he watches Alonzo, and sometimes narrowing during busts to hide his guilt. But it's Denzel Washington who really steals the show as Alonzo. Alonzo is a good cop gone bad, but he still believes that he is good. Although the audience knows that Alonzo is bad, we are occasionally tricked into sympathizing with him because of his reasons for doing some of the things he does, and many of those reasons make so much sense it's scary. But the streets have numbed Alonzo to the point where he thinks everything he does is right, and the fact that he has a badge has given him dillusions of grandeur and the thought that he is invincible. As Alonzo, Denzel is given the chance to really cut loose and show his true colors as an actor. He shows that he can play a bad guy like very few other leading men, like Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson and Robert Redford can't. He knows that to play such a dominating bad guy, he has to throw himself into the part body and spirit. Both Washington and Hawke are perfectly gritty against the equally gritty street setting, which is perfectly shot right down to the smallest detail. The director (his name escapes me) shot this to look like a very early rap video, with pulp looking film and even the stereotype shots of the streets whizzing by.
Training Day is brilliant. And after the abysmal summer movie season,we are due to have a thriller this thoughtful and riveting. Hell, there hasn't been a thriler this good since Silence of the Lambs came out ten years ago (well, this year's Swordfish is equal to this, pretty much). It will have you on the edge of your seat, clinging to the armrests from the begining to the end. So pay the money, see it, and enjoy it, because it may be years before we see another one as good as this.
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
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