Denzel Washington stars as Detective Alonzo Harris, a manipulative, corrupt police officer who begins the day training a new police officer named Jake Hoyt, played by Ethan Hawke (Reality Bites, Gattaca). The timeline of the plot covers a single day, but this film uses the increasingly questionable actions that Alonzo takes as Jake comes along for the ride.
In the beginning, the audience gets general inklings of the dedicated Jake and headstrong Alonzo. “Keep your eyes open,” advises Alonzo as he teaches Jake valuable lessons about the environment they work in. Alonzo’s helpful, crime-fighting actions are admirable at times and he justifies these actions whenever he get the chance, a key clue that hints the audience into his true intentions. Alonzo also floats away from the honorable side of the law into self-serving diversions and indiscretions that drive Jake into a seesaw battle of wills with him. Alonzo gives justifiable reasons why Jake should do what as his “teacher” does, but Jake feels he must do what he feels is right as his true character gradually reveals itself. Alonzo tests the boundaries of Jake’s character with increasingly chaotic tests and trials. By the end, the actions and true convictions of each character directly affect their respective outcomes.
Washington and Hawke get an extremely prominent supporting cast, though some performances resemble cameos instead of developed roles because some characters get no closure and seem to be cast for the chance to have a scene with Washington. It may remind you of a fan’s cattle call, except these fans have the clout and notoriety to get these desired parts. Still, it doesn’t really hurt the film overall and adds more entertainment value which pleases most people.
Roger, a notable associate played by Scott Glenn (Backdraft, Vertical Limit), Alonzo’s “crew” and girlfriend, played by Eve Mendes, get more than one scene while everyone else makes a one time appearance, some more memorable than others. Alonzo’s crew, including Dr. Dre, Jaime Gomez (Crimson Tide, Clear and Present Danger), and Peter Greene (The Mask, Usual Suspects) get no closure at the end of the film and basically function to bolster Alonzo’s impact on the audience and add conflicting elements for Jake to struggle with. Macy Gray, Raymond J. Barry, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Tom Berenger, Harris Yulin (Rush Hour 2), Doug Rosselli (The Hurricane) all make splashes as participants in Alonzo’s exploits, but it’s Cliff Curtis’s supporting role as Smiley near the end of the film represents the best of these one-time appearances. Charlotte Ayanna also gets a small role as Jake’s wife, Lisa and the beautiful Samantha Becker (TV’s Sunset Beach, Saved by the Bell New Class) plays Letty.
Director Antoine Fuqua (Replacement Killers, Bait) creates an excellent crime-related film full of action and drama supported by realistic dialogue and situations created by writer David Ayer (U-571, Fast and Furious) who also co-produced the film.
Rap and R&B songs including performances by Nelly, Cypress Hill, P.Diddy, Lox, and Dr. Dre add to the film’s urban environment and heighten the realism and emotion of the plot. Music score composer Mark Mancina (Bad Boys) further boost the positive impact of the music with a driving, modern musical structure.
Washington’s performance stresses the opposite of his previous hero screen personas as he still captivates the audience even though his actions yield deplorable results. It’s good to see Washington playing different roles and extending his already substantial acting skills. Take note of the emotions you feel during Alonzo’s ending scene. Washington’s persona and performance pay dividends in this scene even without any dialogue.
Filmed in New York and Los Angeles, Training Day gets a high recommendation as a solid, realistic film full of impact and volatility. A highly emotional visual experience and rated R for profanity, nudity, and violence.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler