Published Oct 01, 2001"Training Day" is the latest film directed by Antoine Fuqua. You may or may not remember his certain flair of Hollywood action in "Bait" and "The Replacement Killers." Well, this time around Mr. Fuqua is back with a brutal and harsh tale of "good cop / bad cop" - the usual ingredients include corruption, murder and money, in no particular order.
The film's cast is loud and scary, coaxing a strong and verbal image to its central characters. LAPD narcotics detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) and fresh face rookie cop Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) come together for a full day's work on the mean gritty streets of LA. Soon enough, the detective has burrowed deep under the skin of his eager-to-please charge. "To be truly effective, a good narcotics officer must know and love narcotics," Harris says, using a pistol to cajole the rookie into smoking pot laced with PCP. For several minutes, we see the streets through drug-hazed eyes, thanks to odd tints and jump cuts (it's a great sequence shot). The sense of surreal dislocation provided by cinematographer Mauro Fiore ("The Center of the World") is effective.
As the day moves on, Hoyt soon becomes aware of the bigger picture. Is Harris simply trying to educate the newcomer, attempting to up his "street IQ" for purposes of self defence? Is the detective's skirting of the rules the means to a good end? Or is he deeply, thoroughly corrupt, a cop having a hell of a time working above the law?
The duo's interactions with a wheelchair-bound crack dealer (Snoop Dogg, another excellent turn), a wily crime kingpin (Scott Glenn) and the wife (pop star Macy Gray) of a gang figure are increasing suspect. After his first day on the job, Hoyt is more ready to switch careers. "Tough is as tough does" Harris propounds. "You've gotta decide whether you're a wolf or a sheep."
The film is headed for a long and struggle payoff, one that may be too over-the-top for public consumption right about now. The jarring last act also hinges on one extremely unlikely coincidence: it's a sadly loopy turn for a film that otherwise revels in verisimilitude.