Training Day

Training Day is a gritty look behind the scenes of a fairly new cop Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) who is being considered for a spot on a narcotics task force headed by the experienced Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington)

Many people enjoy a cop buddy movie. You know, the type of film where two cops don’t get along and then because of the stress of the case learn to be friends. If this is what you expect from ‘ Training Day ’ forget it.

Training Day is a gritty look behind the scenes of a fairly new cop Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) who is being considered for a spot on a narcotics task force headed by the experienced Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington). Hoyt is a family man, he loves his wife and sees the task force as a pathway to being a detective and ensuring the success of his career. Problem once Hoyt meets Harris he feels like he is in over his head. The first piece of advice Harris provides is to ‘forget what you learned in the academy’. The street is the private domain of Harris and he gleefully watches as Hoyt tries his best to be a good cop. Harris tricks Hoyt into smoking a joint laced with PCP. He stands by while Hoyt tries to break up the attempted rape of a fourteen-year-old girl. Harris does get into the brutal beating of the suspects after they almost kill Hoyt. Things go from bad to worse for poor Hoyt as he tries to provide himself to the experienced Harris. As the day progresses Hoyt discovers that while Harris does lock up a lot of the bad guys he is not above taking a share for himself. Harris is called to a meeting of three highly placed men in the justice system know as the Three Wise Men. There Hoyt overhears that the Russian mob is after Harris and that his training officer must come up with a lot of cash very soon. The situation comes to the point where Hoyt is backed into a untenable position, take the fall for a murder or expose the crooked cops. What started out as a mentor film progresses to the great plot device of placing a reasonable man in a completely unreasonable situation.

What can be said about the acting in Training Day? Washington brings his usual energy to the role of Harris. While the audience is not used to him playing such a villainous personality what you will recognize as in common with his previous roles is he presents Harris as a strong willed man, certain of his own course in life and determined to do things his way. The commentary relates the part of Harris to Satan. The devil would not come at you with his evil on full display, he would seduce you with what you desire most. Here Washington plays the role to perfection. At first Harris is not only a means for Hoyt to further his career but almost a role model. Slowly, Harris reveals his true nature of self-serving evil. Only an actor with the professionalism and attention to his craft as Washington could have pulled off this role with such resounding success. While not the best performance he as every given it was worthy of the best actor Oscar he received for it. To hold his own opposite such an actor requires a lot of talent and Hawk rises to the occasion. His performance of Hoyt is extremely well done. He presents Hoyt as a character the audience can identify with easily. The tragic flaw of Hoyt is his ambition. While normally a good thing, every man wants a better life for his wife and family, here it is twisted and magnified by his interaction with Harris. Hoyt could have avoided everything that transpires if only he refused to smoke the pot or even if he just left the car. Instead Hawk shows the angst this character is experiencing without trying to paint him as a perfect person. Special mention for Scott Glenn. While his part is small he brings his performance is controlled and pivotal to Training Day.

Training Day is the first really major film for director Antoine Fuqua. He brings some street smarts to the presentation. While many critics faulted him for the use of the infamous ‘N’ word he explains in the commentary that this accurately reflects the tone of the streets. Fuqua does a great job of balancing the action and expository material required for the film. Rather than explain the back-story with the overused technique of flashbacks, he allows the characters to inform the audience with natural dialogue. While this takes a little more attention on the part of the audience it is worth it. The framing of the scenes is perfect but will be completely ruined when Training Day hits cable and is subjected to pan and scan. Each frame is rich in detail, the actors off to the side reacting to the events. Training Day has a realistic feel without coming across as a documentary. The sound track is incredible. It pounds the viewer form all sides. Fuqua manages to pace Training Day very well so that the action punctuates the story rather than overwhelming the acting. Fuqua is experienced in the direction of music videos but unlike many of his colleagues that have attempted to make this transition he does not fall into the trap so many do. Training Day does not feel like a two hour long video. It holds together as a film. He is a director to watch much in the genre of Spike Lee.

The Training Day disc is excellent. The commentary track is far better and more interesting than most I have heard. Fuqua goes into the choices he made to bring Training Day to light. The Dolby 5.1 sound booms like a jet taking off. The surround speakers get a workout and the sub woofer is on almost constantly. The 2.35:1 anamorphic video is crystal clear. There is not a defect in sight. The color balance is perfect, the blacks a pure and without artifact. There are a good number of extras presented. There are two music videos, additional scenes and an alternate ending. While many will get Training Day because of the historical Oscar win by Washington the reason behind your purchase should be the quality of Training Day and disc.

Review by Doug MacLean of

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