Training Day (Antoine Fuqua, 2001)

10Sep10

Denzel Washington (Det. Alonzo Harris), Ethan Hawke (Jake Hoyt), Scott Glenn (Roger), Snoop Dogg (Blue), Dr. Dre (Paul). Screenplay by David Ayer. Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Rating: 18. Running time: 122 minutes.

It says a lot about this film that I had no intention of (re)watching it, but ended up doing so after finding it on television. Before I knew it, a casual ten minutes of viewing had turned into seeing the whole thing again. Training Day, predominantly because of its lead man Alonzo, is absolutely preposterous. If Denzel Washington ever needed a larger than life, outrageously loud character to fill his own gigantic personality and bundle of talent with, then he has it here. He plays a top LA narcotics cop so crooked he no longer knows himself what his identity is. He insists (to himself as much as us) that he wears gangster clothes and talks their talk for the sake of gaining proper intelligence and keeping himself alive, but that doesn’t explain why he also lives amongst them. He boasts that he’s responsible for 50,000 years of life sentences that have been handed out in the last decade, but then the first time we see him with an arrest warrant he kills the guy in the house and takes a share for himself out of his stash of drug money. He lets attempted-rapists go after giving them his dose of ‘street justice’ (you guessed right, that’s a codeword for corporal punishment), and he steals from properties by waving menus rather than search warrants at the door.  Alonzo is seemingly untouchable, with even the entire police department worshipping the ground he walks on. Maybe it’s put better in his own words: ‘yeah that’s right; King Kong ain’t got SHIT on me!’ You heard. Quite simply, he gives the white rookie cop he’s showing around a day from hell, and how that shit-scared guy, when finally getting the chance to walk away from the day of death traps instead decides to head back into the ghetto and sort Alonzo out, is probably a step too far into implausibility. But it’s only in line with how wild the entire film is. Fuqua shot on location here, somehow being welcomed as he did so without getting shot in the process. And yet ultimately it’s all about Denzel as Alonzo. An Oscar well deserved, in a film that would be absolutely nothing without him.

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