Denzel Washington is clearly having the time of his life playing bad-cop to Ethan Hawke’s good in Warner Bros. “Training Day.” While both men were nominated for Academy Awards (Best Actor and Best Supporting, respectively), any competent actor could have filled Hawke’s shoes (the nature of a role that calls more for reacting than actual acting). Only an actor as skilled at his craft as Washington could play the role somewhere between an “ends-justify-the-means” cop and a Batman villain without looking incredibly silly (Jeremy Irons, take note).
Hawke is Jake Hoyt, a cracker-jack patrolman picked to join an elite squad of undercover narcotics cops lead by Washington’s Alonzo Harris. The film takes place over the course of Hoyt’s first day on the job. Harris gets him high on PCP, beaten up by a couple of rapists and nearly gunned down by a troupe of angry Latinos. There is interesting tension and quiet morality lurking around every corner as the viewer is asked to look inside him/herself and decide whether Alonzo is a monster or just doing what it takes in a corrupt world. That’s until the entire story spirals out of control and Alonzo looses a dimension and Tom Berenger shows up with a mullet. Don’t ask.
Director Antione Fuqua proves more than capable, giving the film both a glossy Hollywood feel and preserving the gritty integrity of its L.A. setting. While the ending breaks down, the film is taught enough throughout to hold interest. David Ayer’s script is clich