Training Day opens with narcotics division rookie Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) about to start his first day as one of an elite team of narcotic officers in Los Angeles.
The first-day anxiety is palpable when Hoyt takes a call early in the morning from his training officer Detective Sgt. Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington).
Obviously, taking this job with the narcotics unit is a dream come true for young Hoyt, but events of the first day will prove to be far more than anything he could have ever dreamed.
The veteran detective starts right in destroying any concepts Hoyt may have about detective work by instructing him to skip the trip to the station, that their first meeting will take place at a diner.
At first Hoyt appears to be suffering from hero worship, and has trouble figuring out how to present himself to Harris. Adding to the anxiety is the list of Harris' accomplishments and arrests which is long and falls readily off of the detective's tongue. Harris may in fact be his own favorite fan.
Green is a good word to describe Hoyt. He's highly idealistic and still holds to the concept of police officers being the good guys and drug dealers being the bad guys. Which may be one reason it's so hard for him to adapt to Harris' style of detective work.
It's really difficult to tell the difference between Harris and the drug dealers. He drives a shiny black Monte Carlo which he calls `the office'. Draped around his neck are several gold chains and crosses and he dresses in dark colors. And, to top it off, he never follows department protocol.
At first it's hard to tell whether Harris is in disguise or whether he's converted. We have to wonder, as does Hoyt, if Harris' performance is due to having so completely absorbed his roll in the underworld as a way of gaining information to make arrests or whether all this power has gone to his head.
"If you want to protect the sheep from the wolves, you have to become a wolf," Harris explains to Hoyt. This, only after he persuades Hoyt to take a hit of some substance he just liberated off of a car load of unsuspecting college kids.
Reeling from taking what turns out to be PCP laced marijuana, at one point Hoyt jumps out the `the office' to rescue a 14-year-old Hispanic girl from being raped by two thugs in the alley. It's the one move that eventually leads to the unraveling of Harris' nefarious web, and the action that will make the difference between life and death for this young rookie.
It's sometimes hard to watch these intense hard-core-living in the inner city movies. The world inner city people seem consider reality is so completely different from those of us living in central Oregon that the concepts they embody may be beyond our grasp, in some cases.
Denzel Washington's performance as a hardened detective is superb - evidenced by the fact that it takes watching most of the film to figure out where he's really coming from.
Ethan Hawke is totally convincing as the somewhat less than totally naive rookie. His character has depth and believability making it easy for us to become concerned for his welfare.
As long as you aren't someone who is emotionally impacted by watching dark personalities on the silver screen, Training Day is a movie worth taking in.
**** Training Day is rated R for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief nudity.