Review by Susan Granger
2½ stars out of 4
It's obvious why perennial good-guy Denzel Washington was intrigued
by the malevolent role of veteran L.A.P.D. Detective Sergeant Alonzo Harris, who
heads an elite, undercover narcotics squad. He's a dedicated rogue cop who's
glib that "you gotta have a little dirt on you for anyone to trust you." His
"street justice" ethics and morality are outside the norm but he has his own
ambiguous integrity. So when Jake Hoyt, an idealistic rookie, played by Ethan
Hawke, wants to join his unit, Harris gives him 24 hours to prove himself
saying, "You've got today and today only to show me what you're made
of....You've got to decide if you're a sheep or a wolf." Their day begins with
drugs and alcohol, part of "getting to know the streets," and includes
extortion, execution, and a $4 million seizure, which quickly decreases to $3
million as the corrupt cops take their cut. "It's ugly but it's necessary,"
rationalizes Harris. "Play the game, grow wise and then you can change things."
Both Washington and Hawke deliver, supported by Scott Glenn, Tom Berenger, Snoop
Dogg, Macy Gray and Dr. Dre. But David Ayer's implausible, cliché-filled
screenplay veers off in several directions with too many far-fetched
coincidences. Certainly a subplot involving the Russian Mafia is irrelevant and,
right now, after the World Trade Center, the timing seems inappropriate for
gratuitous police corruption and brutality. Director Antoine Fuqua brings a
cinematic restlessness, street smarts and a touch of slick senationalism to this
police thriller which all-too-soon becomes pedestrian, even sadistic, with an
unsatisfying conclusion. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Training Day"
is a gritty, foul-mouthed 6, questioning whether law enforcement comes at the
expense of justice and public safety.
Copyright © 2001 Susan Granger