Derek Winnert

Training Day ***½ (2001, Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Harris Yulin, Cliff Curtis, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Macy Gray, Eva Mendes) – Classic Film Review 970

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Director Antoine Fuqua’s tough, well-made but depressing 2001 LA police thriller stars Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington, who land a couple of really showy roles as good cop, bad cop. They are rookie Jake Hoyt and seasoned Detective Alonzo Harris.

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On his very first day as a narcotics officer, rookie cop Hawke observes that undercover veteran cop Washington isn’t very nice at all. Hawke gives an effective, low-key performance, and earned an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor, while Washington enjoys himself in a flashy display of a man gone to the dogs, winning a surprise best actor Oscar, for a capable but only moderate performance as the star of a capable but only modest movie.

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The carefully crafted film at first strains and then later loses credibility as we discover the ridiculously appalling depths of Washington character’s depravity – it turns out he’s in league with the Russian Mafia. Washington’s spent so many years carving out an irreproachable image as a good guy that it is hard to accept him in this role at all.

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You can see why he’d like a change of pace, but some more subtle, ambiguous portrait of villainy would have been the better way to go. David Ayer’s screenplay is potent but it certainly isn’t subtle.

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Still, the tense atmosphere, the feisty, well-staged action, Washington’s showy turn and Hawke’s intense display of earnest sincerity keep Training Day motoring along quite nicely. So do the support performances of a notable ensemble.

Also in the cast are Scott Glenn, Harris Yulin, Cliff Curtis, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Macy Gray, Eva Mendes, Tom Berenger, Raymond J Barry, Charlotte Ayanna, Nick Chinlund and Raymond Cruz.

Washington and Hawke reunited with the director for the remake of The Magnificent Seven (2016). Washington also made The Equalizer (2014) with Fuqua.

© Derek Winnert 2014 Classic Movie Review 970 derekwinnert.com

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