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USA 2001
Directed by
Antoine Fuqua
120 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Training Day

Denzel Washington, an actor who has made a staple of playing urbane leading men often in mainstream entertainments, picked up a Best Actor Oscar for his blistering performance as Alonzo Harris, a ruthlessly effective but morally bankrupt plain clothes cop who takes rookie, Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke), on a trial-by-fire induction session through the mean streets of L.A.

To put it mildly it’s a helluva day for both men and director Fuqua delivers bad mouth jive talk and bad ass behaviour in spades in what is a stylishly entertaining and relentlessly tense action film. One cannot help but wonder at the casting of Hawke who seems incredibly lightweight to have ever been teamed up with Harris in the first instance yet who undergoes a remarkable physical transformation in the hyperbolic final section of the film when he goes head-to-head with his hard-ass boss.

Slow to build and sticking close to genre form it is Washington’s performance that provides the main point of interest. Both charismatically charming and mired in corruption, his character is light years from the decent, upright heroes the actor so often has played, the against-type nature of the role and the intensity of his performance no doubt winning him the Oscar. David Ayer’s screenplay is tight and explores the moral dilemmas of the story effectively, never preaching but showing them as simultaneously self-serving yet seemingly credible as "street justice". Had the film stuck with this kind of material it would have been an exceptional contribution to the sub-category of veteran-and-rookie-cops-on-the-street films but it instead it wraps with an over-the-top, extended fantasia of ultra-violence  that, if in itself is well-done, too obviously panders to the hoi-polloi’s wish to see someone die in a hail of bullets.

FYI:  Washington appeared in many more action films subsequently, working with Hawke and Fuqua again in The Magnificent 7.




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