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  Training Day A Policeman's Lot Is Not A Happy One
Year: 2001
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Stars: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Tom Berenger, Harris Yulin, Raymond J. Barry, Cliff Curtis, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Macy Gray, Charlotte Ayanna, Eva Mendes, Nick Chinlund, Jaime Gomez, Raymond Cruz, Noel Gugliemi, Samantha Becker
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Policeman Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) has just been promoted and today he starts his new job on the narcotics squad of the Los Angeles Police Department. He wakes up at five in the morning to see his wife feeding their baby daughter and starts his day with breakfast; as he's about to leave, he receives a telephone call from his new boss, Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington), who tells him not to check in at the station - he'll meet him in a diner. When Jake arrives, Alonzo is reading the newspaper and when Jake turns down an offer of breakfast, Alonzo tells him to sit in silence while he finishes. Jake is under no illusions about who is boss, but as the day wears on, he steadily accumulates misgivings, for Alonzo plays by his own rules...

It's always (well, usually) much more fun to play the baddie than the goodie, and Training Day provides ample evidence of that as Washington is plainly having a whale of a time in the role of unethical cop Alonzo. This was all based on a script by David Ayer, and features a basic plot that would not be out of place in a Steven Seagal movie, but where a film of that type would emphasise the macho heroics and fight scenes, here Ayer wants to get inside the head of his villian, and his leading man is only too happy to comply, creating a character of magnetic charisma.

The same can't, unfortunately, be said of Hawke, who is lumbered with a straight as a die, moral crusader to play, and a bit more attention to fleshing him out might have made for a more satisfying battle between good and evil. As it is, Alonzo begins as he means to go on: by moulding Jake into one of his lackeys through intimidation, and so the first thing they do is pull over a car full of less-than-threatening college kids who they have seen buying a small amount of marijuana from a dealer on the street. Nevertheless, Alonzo draws his gun and starts shouting, taking the drugs from them and letting them go with a warning.

Back in the car Alonzo calls his "office", he coaxes Jake into smoking what he thinks is the marijuana but has in fact been swapped with something stronger, leaving Jake a little frazzled. The effects start to wear off by the time the both of them have arrived at the house of an easy-going retired cop (Scott Glenn) who is pleased to see them, offering a drink to his visitors, but has something else Alonzo wants. Jake gets the feeling he has been thrown in at the deep end, and he has, yet the main lesson he is learning is not how to adapt to Alonzo's crooked ways, but that he wants no part of them if he can help it.

Adding to the gangsta cool, along with the soundtrack, are a few faces from the world of music who get to bolster their images by acting tough. Snoop Dogg shows up as a wheelchair-bound dealer who has swallowed his merchandise, Macy Gray is understandably outraged at Alonzo searching her house without a warrant, and Dr. Dre is one of Alonzo's entourage of corrupt cops. Add in Washington giving a perfomance to relish you can almost overlook the frankly contrived plotting that serves to pit the two chief characters against each other towards a climactic fight; one good twist is followed by a development that is more deus ex machina than innovative, and so it goes on. As cop thrillers go, this was better than some of the examples that would be on television around the time, but perhaps no more than that. Music by Mark Mancina.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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