Training Day review by David Richards
Training Day is a violent, sometimes even gruesome, tale about two members of the Los Angeles Police Department.
One is Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington), a veteran narcotics officer, while the other is Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke), his trainee. Hoyt makes it clear at the beginning that he aims to earn a spot with Harris on his top squad in charge of narcotics.
These two cops couldn't be less alike, though.
Harris is mean, he's nasty and does what he has to do to get his way. On the first day of training, for instance, Harris forces Hoyt to take a few hits of PCP laced marijuana. Harris' reasoning for this is if a drug dealer offers it to an undercover cop on the street, there's no time to hesitate or the cover will be blown.
Hoyt on the other hand does things by the book. He's a smart cop, which we know from an early scene where he spots a rape taking place and has the guts to seek out the perpetrators and to punish them. But Hoyt is also a young officer and at the beginning, he does nothing but aspires to be like the older and more experienced Harris.
"I feel like I'm in high school football tryouts again," Hoyt tells his wife on the morning of his training day. "I wish it were tomorrow, so I knew if I made the team."
Harris surprises Hoyt early on with some of his actions. Harris drinks while driving on duty, he steals large amounts of drug money and he kills unnecessarily, trying to put the blame on somebody else.
These actions cause Hoyt's mind to work overtime. As Harris becomes more corrupt, Hoyt's torn between siding with his own instincts or siding with a cop he once looked up to but one who he is disliking more and more as the day goes along.
Training Day is not an uplifting film. It doesn't hold back any punches when portraying crooked cops and their corrupt activities.
I don't believe there are officers out there as evil as the one portrayed by Washington, but then again no one can be certain.
The film, in all of its violence and gore, is worth seeing because of how well it is done and by how well it is acted. Antoine Fuqua (The Replacement Killers) directed the film, while David Ayer is behind the screenplay (U-571).
Washington is fine in his role, a very risky and unusual performance, but the film is stolen out from under him by the effort of Hawke (Before Sunrise) in an outstanding portrayal of the uncertain, but trustworthy, young officer.
Thinking back on Training Day, I am reminded of two films, both of which star Sean Penn. Colors, a 1988 film about L.A. street gangs, displays the same sort of veteran-rookie partner relationship between Penn and Robert Duvall as shown here by Hawke and Washington. And 1983's Bad Boys, about two teenagers who all but declare war on each other, has a similar violent portrayal of the streets as well as a similar cast of electrifying characters.
One of the final scenes of Training Day involving Hawke slowly walking away from a gang populated neighborhood after a confrontation is eerily similar to the finale in Bad Boys in which Penn walks away from a bloody prison fight.
In both scenes, you can sense a certain remorse in the characters for what has just happened, yet they show no regret because they honestly feel what they did was right.
Training Day is for select audiences only. I'm not so sure die hard Washington fans would even go for it, seeing how much a departure from Denzel's previous work this role is for him. But this is a credible film, one that has a story to tell, one that's intriguing and one that comes equipped with one of the best performances I've seen all year.
**** Traning Day is rated R for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief nudity.