You want to root for the good guys, but it’s hard to know who they are when the cops begin to resemble the people they pursue. One of the questions the new release Training Day brings up is just how close pursuers come to the pursued.
Elevated above the standard cops-and-robbers fare, Training Day (Warner Bros.) follows a pair of undercover narcotics agents. Ethan Hawke (Hamlet) stars as rookie cop Jake Hoyt on his first day, and Denzel Washington (Remember the Titans) plays the street-wise and overly cynical partner Alonzo Harris.
It is easy to identify with Hoyt’s plight as he desperately seeks guidance. Thrown into a world far more dubious and dangerous then he ever realized, he sees compromises made, criminals left running free and bending and outright breaking of rules to catch the criminals who rarely seem worse than the police.
Hoyt’s day starts with understandable rookie jitters – well founded because his first day turns out to be a nightmare. We follow him through one dangerous scene after another as he is thrown into more and more questionable circumstances. Action and drama are often overwhelmed by a nauseating sensation of losing track of which characters the audience is supposed to support. This is exactly the problem that led Warner Bros. studios to consider delaying the release of the film due to recent events, according to entertainment news source Ain’t-it-cool-news.com.
Although the film is a little too dark and unrealistically over the top to be truly enjoyable, it is nonetheless filled with plenty of twists and surprises, not to mention countless cameos by stars such as Snoop Doggy Dog, Macy Gray and Dr. Dre. The acting itself made the film worth seeing, and the emotional connections drawn between the characters are impressively complex.
Denzel Washington’s performance is believable enough to be uncomfortable, as his standoffish character is intimidating. Ethan Hawke again finds himself in a role that allows his cute and innocent charm earn him deep sympathy.
Training Day is directed by Antoine Fuqua, director of Bait and The Replacement Killers. He does an impressive job creating a well-paced movie that never releases the tension it mounts.
The film is certainly not one for the weak of heart because of its graphic violence. But instead of blood and explosions forming the center of the movie, the emotional turbulence keeps the movie going. Ignore the tagline – “The only thing more dangerous than the line being crossed is the cop who will cross it” – and see Training Day not for the portraits it presents.
Training Day is in theatres Friday