Training Day

Training Day

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

As days go, this is a bad one.

It starts with a black LAPD detective playing power games with a white rookie cop and ends with the kind of violence you don't want to believe.

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In-yo-face ghetto rap has its own vocabulary, which is incomprehensible to outsiders. That's okay. It's part of the reality vibe. Antoine Fuqua keeps his cameras close, personalising the tension. It feels manipulative after a while. Women are "bitches", men are "niggas", drugs circulate, money rules.

At first, it appears episodic, as Alonzo (Denzel Washington) drives Jake (Ethan Hawke) around the territory, opening his mind to the street knowledge. What he's doing is scaring the kid to toughen his attitude to the way things are. Soon enough, another truth emerges, that Alonzo is so far out of line he's forgotten where he started from.

Screenwriter David Ayer plots the story with military precision. Nothing exists by chance, which seems too smart somehow. That schoolgirl Jake saves from being raped by crackheads in a back alley will be important later, you'll see. When Alonzo forces Jake to smoke dope, he's not teaching him a lesson. He's planning ahead.

There have been great police corruption movies - Sidney Lumet's Q&A comes to mind - but usually they are more subtle than this. The reputation of LA cops hit rock bottom during the Rodney King affair, but what happens here is beyond belief.

Washington stepped into Sidney Poitier's shoes a long time ago. He became the honourable face of black America and never handed in a poor performance. Now he is playing against type and it's a shock. The energy, the control, the absolute cool remains, but this is a new direction and he proves himself capable of getting down with Dr Dre and Snoop Doggy Dog, as if he had never been away.

Hawke grows into the role. As the rookie, who responds to situations that threaten his life with a mixture of disbelief and terror, it is not easy. Jake begins naive and respectful. From there he discovers a strength he didn't know he had. Hawke measures up. The pretty boy days are gone.

Reviewed on: 30 Jan 2002
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Training Day packshot
Denzel Washington exposes the corruption and violence of the LAPD.
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Director: Antoine Fuqua

Writer: David Ayer

Starring: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Tom Berenger, Harris Yulin, Snoop Dogg, Raymond J. Barry, Cliff Curtis, Emilio Rivera, Dr. Dre, Peter Greene, Macy Gray

Year: 2001

Runtime: 122 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

Festivals:

SSFF 2011

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