The only thing more
dangerous than the line being crossed, is the cop who will cross it.
SCORE: 1Ĺ Stars
Training Day is ostensibly a complex study of a bad cop. Denzel Washington brilliantly portrays said policeman, but the screenplay lets him down. SPOILER WARNING: There's nothing complex about Alonzo Harris (Washington). He's beyond "dirty." He lets rapists go free. He's guilty of capital murder (murder in conjunction with armed robbery). He has no loyalty to his lover, his children or his new partner (Ethan Hawke). He plants evidence and produces fake search warrants. Harris has zero good qualities. It's an insult to the audience to string us along for 45 minutes until we realize the truth about Harris.
As much as I enjoy dark cinema, Training Day is unsatisfying. Still, there is one way the movie could have been worse. A really bad movie would have had Harris redeem himself in the end. Training Day is wise to avoid the comfortable middle ground, but requires a villain who is at least aware of the concept of "good." And even Harris' bad guy would be forgivable, if every authority except Hawke weren't portrayed as a psychopath. And, I use "psychopath" literally. In one unbelievable scene, we are introduced to an evil D.A. and two high-ranking police officers who act like Harris' gambling debt (to the Russian mafia?) is reason enough for a preposterous murder with the aid of at least five other sadistic cops and the unfortunately reassigned Hawke.
On a technical level, Training Day is better than average. Antoine Fuqua (The Replacement Killers) directs. The film looks great. Washington is outstanding particularly in the first half of the picture. Early, we believe that Harris may be an effective, albeit brutal officer. Once Harris' true nature is unveiled, Washington's range is violated, but remains an intimidating screen force.
Training Day also tries to be an action picture. There are many unbelievable action scenes. SPOILER WARNING: If Washington needed to frame Hawke for his big score, why would he watch him nearly get beat to death by the two rapists. Likewise, after the "score" Washington has several opportunities to kill Hawke. His psycho cop buddies are begging to "do" him. Yet, Denzel insists he lives. Later (after Hawke puts all the pieces together) Washington beats Hawke to within an inch of his life, but doesn't finish him. Hawke is the only link to Washington's crime, and we've already seen that Washington has killed for less. Rest assured, Hawke survives the struggle to pounce from two stories to belly-flop on the hood of Denzel's car. Despite Hawke's weakened condition, Washington decides the best course of action is to back his Monte Carlo into a parked car. Then he deliberately accelerates forward into another parked car (to throw the defenseless Hawke "off guard"). Naturally, Washington is a little "punchy" after the impact and Hawke gets the upper hand.
Everyone knows there are bad politicians, bad preachers, bad doctors and bad policeman. Likewise there are bad movies. Instead of Training Day, I highly recommend The French Connection. If you want to see a good Denzel Washington picture, I suggest Crimson Tide, Philadelphia or Glory.
Plot: One day in the life of a young police officer who rides around with a
psychopath narcotics agent with hopes of landing a promotion in the narcotics division.
Commentary: I guess I can understand why Denzel Washington won the best
actor award for his role in this, but his character completely sucked ass.
I mean, there is no way in hell anyone that corrupt would still be on the
police force, and the amount of power he held over all the low life drug
dealing community of L.A. was totally unbelievable. Iím thinking this was
supposed to be something of a tragedy, but Denzelís character is despicable
and when he dances for the Russians in the end, I found myself wanting to
clapó-for his death and because the film was thankfully over.
More appropriate title: My Nigger
Cringe-o-meter (8 out of 10): Iím afraid there are too many to name here,
but Iíll just mention that final scene where we get to see Denzel dance to
Russian bullets. Arms outstretched, heís flailing around like someone had
hooked him up to a large current of electricity. I have no idea what one
would look like getting pumped full of lead, but spread eagle just doesnít
seem to work. In a word, it was hokey.
Recommended for: Anyone who can suspend their disbelief about a corrupt,
megalomaniac, larger than life cop who should have been dead before this
film ever took place. In another word, shit.