Washington Rife with Corruption
As someone who watches a lot of movies I've seen my fair share of cop movies from the tough cop who gets his job done no matter what to a good cop in a corrupt force and many more. But having seen many you sort of become blase about them as they start to merge into each other with similar storylines. That is until you come across "Training Day" which combines elements of other cop movies but into a new fresh set up as we watch the virtuous rookie learn how tough it is from a seasoned cop on the streets. But what is so stunning about "Training Day" is that whilst it has star power, paced brilliantly to take in just one day and has some magnificent action it poses a question which basically asks whether to fight crime you need to act like a criminal. This one question makes "Training Day" a movie which not only entertains but makes you think and question your own beliefs.
With the streets full of drug dealers Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke - Gattaca) is an L.A. cop who wants to serve and protect by joining the narcotics team and he has one day to prove that he is ready when he is sent out with Det. Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington - Remember the Titans) a veteran in the narcotics squad. But things don't go well for Jake as his rule book ethics are scoffed at and told he either toughens up and starts thinking and acting like a criminal or he goes back to a secure desk job. And Jake tries his best as Alonso gets him to smoke dope and participate in various other illegal activities. But as the day goes on Jake becomes aware that Alonzo is more criminal than cop as he begins to wonder what mess he has got himself into.
Splitting "Training Day" down into elements it does have ideas which feel familiar such as rookie cop Jake who still has the uphold and protect mentality yet is thrown into the dirty lawless world of narcotics. And on top of this we then have the equally familiar element of Det. Alonzo who having worked the streets for years is tough and has his own moral set of laws. But rather than just feeling like it's only drawing on other cop movies director Antoine Fuqua makes it edgier as we watch Jake learn the law of the streets as he spends the day with Alonzo, amazed at how Alonzo disregards the law in order to get results which suit him.
This side of "Training Day" poses the question as to how far is acceptable when trying to police the streets and we watch as Jake is basically told that he needs to be like a criminal in order to remove criminals. We watch as Alonso gets him to smoke drugs, drink on duty, dish out beatings all in order to deal with crime on a criminal level. And as such there is this marvellous ambiguity going on as you begin to wonder whether Alonso is still a man of a law who having spent years working the streets has become a criminal using the badge to threaten and hide behind.
All of which nicely builds up as Jake is pushed to his limits by Alonso whose level of corruption not only reveals itself but also how evil he can be to achieve what he wants. Sadly whilst it does build up nicely to a crescendo of tension as the day draws to an end and Jake has had his eyes opened by what he witnessed it does go to far. The ending itself is okay but what leads up to it a series of scenes where all becomes very clear to Jake feel contrived to the point that they are hard to believe. If what had gone on during the first half hadn't been so convincing then this almost element of fantasy would have been fine but you become drawn into this story believing that what we see could happen that the ending just goes too far.
Despite the issue with the ending director Antoine Fuqua paces the movie beautifully with a perfect blend of action and drama drawing us into this day on the street. But he is aided by some brilliant performances especially from Denzel Washington who seems to be enjoying every second of playing Det. Alonso. There is some intoxicating about Alonso, he's arrogant, cocky and conceited but his power, his fearlessness and being so self assured makes him fascinating yet dangerous and Washington delivers all of this brilliantly right up until the final moments. Washington is not alone as Ethan Hawke is just as good with his performance as rookie Jake especially when he finds himself going along with what Alonso tells him out of fear of losing his job. Together they just work delivering 2 very different characters but 2 characters that are fascinating.
What this all boils down to is that "Training Day" is a very good movie and one which takes a couple of ideas from other cop movies but makes them seem fresh by creating a clever well paced storyline around them. It does faulter towards the end but even then when it does lose touch with reality it is still captivating. And a big reason why it's so captivating is down to the performances both from Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke who are on the top of their game throughout.