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:: Training Day

Director Antoine Fuqua’s film “Training Day” is an intense look at the notion of street crime and justice. He uncovers the fine line between undercover police tactics and corruption but just fails to deliver a proper scrutiny in potentially powerful situations.

The film follows the first day of rookie cop Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) on the narcotics beat in Los Angeles. He is being trained as an undercover narcotics squad officer by the head of the squad, detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington). Harris is a man of few words but a formidable presence. The initial training scenes are humorous with Harris exerting his superiority in playing mind games with Hoyt. He works the streets in his own fashion, while Hoyt, an ambitious cop looking to fast-track his status in the LAPD, is a bit non-plussed at times.

There is a great line in the film, “If you want to catch a wolf, you have to become a wolf.” However, events prove that this saying is twisted and understated, as we enter the murky, grey areas of flirting with ethical standards. Harris is not a wolf, but sinister, and his own rules conflict with the ideological views of his new partner. Set within this twenty-four period, viewers are witness to the harsh environment and effect it has on the people within it. The language and violence is extremely strong.

However, the main attraction, as I see it, in recommending the viewing of this film, is the acting performances of the two stars, Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. Washington, in particular, epitomises the brutal and alarming characteristics of well-known police scandals. He makes you want to view his snarling, self-absorption, and mean streaks in a fantastic performance. He takes the police corruption and racism culture to a whole new level and towers over the slight inadequacies of the film being slightly slick and neat at times. Not having seen an Ethan Hawke film for a while, he reminds me of how good an actor he is. He is intense and focused right from the opening scene and is the film’s lone beacon of virtue and sanity. He allows Washington to dominate without being drowned out himself. The supporting cast make the most of their small roles – Scott Glenn, and singers Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre, and Macy Gray.

Naturally, they contribute to film’s soundtrack, which is most energetic with original material from hip-hop singers Nelly, Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre, and Cypress Hill. Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs and David Bowie combine for a remake of Bowie’s classic “This Is Not America”. As mentioned previously, Denzel Washington’s outstanding performance warrants viewing of the film in its own right, but the theme of the temptation of evil and corruption is thought-provoking and vigorous, being maintained at good pace.

Screening on general release