Anthony's Film Review
Training Day (2001)
A dark, gritty crime drama putting one cop against another...
Training Day is a movie that is good for two reasons. One, there are plenty of memorable quotes that easily stick after the film is over. Two, Denzel Washington delivers an unforgettable surprise performance, departing from the usual heroic and inspiring roles he has been known for. That is not to say that Ethan Hawke as the co-star does not have a memorable screen performance. He is just as important to the cast as Washington. In fact, let's remind ourselves that everyone in front of the camera and behind it plays a vital role. That includes, of course, the writer penning the script.
As the title suggests, Training Day takes place over a period of 24 hours, from the moment Jake Hoyt (Hawke) wakes up at 5:00 AM to the conclusion at 5:00 AM the next day. He is to be trained by Alonzo Harris (Washington), a narcotics officer, and has the chance to prove himself. Jake's initial meeting with Alonzo in a cafe seems innocent enough. When the two step into Alonzo's car, which looks more like a thug's car than a detective's car, the tension between the two characters starts to develop. Jake says he would do anything to prove himself. In response, Alonzo looks at him with a narrow eye. This veteran Narc may not be the man he appears to be.
Jake's day-long crash course as a rookie narcotics officer is a series of situations to resolve, including a rapist in an alley, a search in a suspect's house, and a wheelchair-bound man possessing drugs. Jake thinks he can do it all as standard police procedure dictates. Alonzo thinks otherwise. He does not even interpret the book in a different way. Rather, he ignores it entirely. He has no respect for fair interrogation or the appropriate use of force. To Jake's astonishment, Alonzo approaches lawbreakers with a ruthless attitude, ready to resort to violent measures. According to Alonzo, criminals are to be taught a lesson they won't forget, and jail time won't really do that. As Alonzo tells Jake, "To protect the sheep, you must catch the wolf, and it takes a wolf to catch a wolf. You understand?"
Jake sees another part of Alonzo that mirrors the work he does: his home life. He lives with a wife and son in a gang-infested neighborhood. For Jake, it is another stark contrast to his idealistic views of working in the police department. Instead of men and women dedicated to protecting and serving the public, Jake sees a man living among those a cop is supposed to protect society from. This along with other events in the day puts Jake in a difficult emotional situation. He knows the streets are very mean and tough, but is he supposed to sacrifice his humanity in order to do his job?
The film is a brilliant look at two characters and their opposing views of dealing with the mean streets. It is also a look how a cop, often one who goes undercover, can be pulled into the world of crime and never come out the same person. For any good cop, it's a force to resist. Ethan Hawke does a great job as that cop who still has his honor. However, it is Denzel Washington who makes the film work so well. He sinks into the character of Alonzo Harris, playing someone entirely different and unrecognizable compared to himself in real life. He also adds wit while delivering many great quotes.
Denzel Washington won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Alonzo Harris, and it is well deserved. In addition, the American Film Institute's Top 50 Villains list ranks Alonzo Harris at #50. I have various ways of picking a movie to see, and for Training Day, I wanted to see it after hearing about these two recognitions. Anytime an actor is praised this well for a particular film, it is usually something worth seeing.
For more information about Training Day, visit the Internet Movie Database.